Guilt and shame are two distinct ideas. Guilt is culpability and does not involve feelings at all. Shame is all feelings. When I am experiencing shame I am feeling less than. I feel that I somehow don’t measure up to other people or to my picture of what I should be. Shame is the opposite of honor.
-The reason that distinction is important for me is that guilt and shame have very different solutions. Guilt is dealt with through forgiveness. Shame is dealt with by means of receiving honor.
-If I run a red light a judge might ask me if I was guilty or innocent. If I answered I feel terrible about it I would not be answering her question. She would say I don’t care how you feel I want to know if you ran the red light.
-Shame is the sense I have had most of my life that I am less than the people around me. I was ashamed I lived in a rundown housing project in a very wealthy town or because some of the uptown mothers would not let me come over and play with their kids. In program I have learned long term identification with loving and accepting people is the appropriate response to shame.
-I have often said that I have found healing in the loving eyes of my family and friends.
-I think modern popular psychology has blurred the distinction between guilt and shame. The popular concept has become “guilt feelings” which is an amalgamation of two totally different ideas guilt and feeling. In the past that has led to me thinking I am feeling guilt when it is shame I am feeling.
-Because I confused shame with guilt I tried to deal with my shame with confession. I would feel badly and confess. My feelings would not be dealt with so I would confess again. I confessed over and over again day after day hoping to find to find relief for my misery.
-In my program I am asked to confess my misdeeds to God myself and another human being. When I confess to God I am not giving her/him information she/he did not have. It is not news to God. There is no need to inform God.
The thing that makes it difficult to know I am forgiven when I only confess internally or to myself is I can not see God. That is why it helps me to confess to another human being that I can see. The idea of confessing to God, myself and another human being is so that I know that God knows exactly what I have done.
-The fact that the other person displays forgiveness I can physically see helps me know that God has also forgiven me.
-With forgiveness and acceptance I am able with the help of my program mates to learn from my mistakes. I do not feel my HP is all that upset with my failures. When I turned my will and my life over to the care God she/he knew full well what I am and all the weaknesses that plague me. I think my failures are in my contract with my Higher power.
-In my thinking the important thing is that knowing I am forgiven allows me to move on from my mistakes to learning from my mistakes and thereby maturing and growing.