Shame vs. Guilt

Brené Brown’s quote brings to light just how much we interchange the emotions of guilt and shame. Shame is destructive. Shame creates the stigma within us that says “I am bad.” At its core, that emotion relays that we are unworthy, perhaps even unlovable. Shame creates a wall that prevents us from growing closer….to others and in deepening in our spiritual faith if that is our desire. Over time, shame can produce in us a feeling of such distain for ourselves and our actions that we cannot overcome it no matter how many good things we do. Shame drives in us the feeling that “if anyone knew the real me they would likely not want to be with me or love me.” Shame isolates us. Shame is the feeling that constantly underlies a sexual addiction. It straps us down. It hijacks our brain and destroys our self-esteem. It instills in us an idea of perfectionism, and that if we aren’t striving for perfection, we aren’t doing enough.
Guilt is a much more productive emotion. In guilt, we understand that though we may have done a bad thing, we are still worthy. It is good in the sense that it convicts us to make better decisions in the future. It does not create a wall between us and others if handled in a healthy manner. It taps into our sense of empathy and allows us to feel bad and make amends if we have done something to hurt someone else. Think of guilt as a guardrail. Hitting that guardrail prevents us from going over the cliff. It gives us the opportunity to self-correct and get back on track.
In the case of sexual addiction, shame is the emotion that drives the addict to isolate and live in secrecy. Ask every single sexual addict what is the primary emotion they feel and shame would be on top. Many times, when the addiction comes to light either through a careful disclosure or through being “caught,” the shame will cause the addict to only tell pieces of the story out of fear of revealing their entire selves. This is a very normal course of events. It is key to break the cycle of shame. A full disclosure will allow the addict to live in truth for the first time in perhaps decades. As painful and terrifying as that is to get to that point, once truth is revealed, only then does the healing even start to become possible. The life you can lead on the other side of shame is so much more fulfilling. You ARE worthy. You can get there. There is hope

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