Shame vs. Guilt

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A question that I've had for years has finally been answered!

What is the difference between feeling bad about something and needing to repent 
vs. feeling bad because the adversary wants to drag you down?  

I know the surface answer we often use is, "Well, it's like feeling guilty for the wrong reasons vs. having Godly sorrow."  But what is Godly sorrow exactly? How does each feel different?  For me, feeling bad is feeling bad and I could not, for the life of me, figure out how each emotion was supposed to FEEL differently from one another.  This has been such a hang up in my life, debilitating me to the point of depression and confusion at times.  I have struggled to separate my actions from my true identity.  Now I have the answer!


Guilt is feeling bad about something you did. 

Shame is feeling bad about YOU. 

Maybe this is not an earth-shattering piece of information for anyone else out there, but for me this has been monumental!  I believe the adversary's tool is shame.  He wants us to lose sense of who we really are, intelligent and worthy children of God.  So, when we make mistakes he is going to tell us not that we made a mistake, but that we ARE the mistake.  He will tell us we are unlovable, that we should be ashamed of ourselves, and that we'll never achieve our potential.  When hearing these words we can remember that "he is the father of all lies!"

Our Father in Heaven on the other hand doesn't necessarily want us to feel guilt, but he does need us to feel remorse for our sinful actions.  The dictionary defines remorse as "deep regret."  When we feel remorse, or Godly sorrow, we feel a call to move upward, to improve, to change.  A friend of mine recently described this feeling when she said, "After listening to General Conference I feel chastised, but at the same time the desire to be better and do better."  Heavenly Father desires for us to remember who we are and to use that knowledge to move ever closer toward Him.

Again, as I type this I think, "This isn't anything really new."  But reading about shame and it's characteristics I can now FEEL the difference.  When making mistakes I can now simply say, "Silly me!"  When I sin, I can now make restitution with clarity.  When I start to have those debilitating thoughts about my identity, I can clearly define them as words from Satan rather than from God and dismiss them (at least, more quickly than I did before).  My mistakes no longer need to define me.

With this understanding I feel like I can more confidently declare, as did Moses, "Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:16)."

Think of how this can change our parenting as well!  When I try to discipline my children and see no remorse (or even before I give them the chance to do so), I turn to shaming them.  "How could you?" "You always..."  "You never..."  etc...etc.. Shame never changes behavior.

I am just feeling so revolutionized in my thinking right now and eager to put this new understanding into practice!  I know how shame FEELS compared to the FEELINGS of guilt or remorse.  This has been one of the most liberating discoveries I've made in a very long time and it feels GREAT!


  1. Further reading:

    Weakness is not Sin by Wendy Ulrich

    I thought it was just me, but it Isn't: Making the journey from "what will people think?" Yo "I am Enough" by Brene Brown


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