Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Psychology today defines guilt as: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Shame is defined as: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
Guilt can lead to feelings of shame which can be a good if they produce repentance (Godly sorrow).
Then there’s what I like to refer to as false guilt and shame: It’s not my behavior that’s bad, it’s that I’m bad. No one could ever love me. I’m unlovable.
Feelings of false guilt and shame can stem from our childhood if our feelings (or feelings in general) were never talked about, validated, or they were manipulated. (If you really loved me you’d do this for me etc.) When this happens we may develop the belief that our own feelings are wrong – and therefore shameful.
The verse in 2 Corinthians references worldly sorrow caused by our own actions, but at the same time we can experience worldly sorrow from things done to us.
False guilt and shame can be debilitating because they can:
* Keep us from connecting with others. (We may feel like no one likes us.)
* Block us from success. We might feel like we’re not worthy of success.
* Cause us to give our power away by allowing others to make decisions for us, which can cause resentment.
* Cause us to want sympathy from others. If we feel like we’re not worthy of love, we may attempt to garner pity from others instead (as a substitute for love).
But, the biggest problem with false shame is that it’s exactly that… false!
God says we are extremely valuable, so valuable that Jesus took our real shame to the cross for us! When we take that shame back from Christ, it becomes false shame of our own creation as we are refusing to let God heal us. It’s a hidden form of pride (self will) that’s not easy to recognize.
“… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
This is why people who have been through successful counseling, recovery programs and have experienced life-changing salvation can gain freedom from guilt and shame (real and false). They have released their will to the care of God in the person of Jesus Christ…who paid the price for our sins and endured the punishment and shame so we could be free of it.
I realize today when I am feeling the way to familiar “I’m not good enough” and “unlovable” feelings it’s because my pride is getting in God’s way.
- Do I have “False Shame”? What does it look like?
- Am I willing to let God have control?