Friday, November 9, 2012

Shame & Guilt

I just started reading Edward T. Welch's new book Shame Interrupted. I look forward to reading what he says about this topic of shame. Towards the beginning, he has a very interesting thought on the difference between shame and guilt. This is just a little taste of this book.
"Shame and guilt are close companions but not identical. Shame is the more common and broader of the two. In Scripture you will find shame (nakedness, dishonor, disgrace, defilement) about ten times more often than you find guilt. 
Guilt lives in the courtroom where you stand alone before the judge. It says, 'You are responsible for wrongdoing and legally answerable.' 'You are wrong.' 'You have sinned.' The guilty person expects punishment and needs forgiveness. 
Shame lives in the community, though the community can feel like a courtroom. It says, 'You don't belong--you are unacceptable, unclean, and disgraced' because 'You are wrong, you have sinned' (guilt), or 'Wrong has been done to you' or 'You are associated with those who are disgraced or outcast.' The shamed person feels worthless, expects rejection, and needs cleansing, fellowship, love, and acceptance. 
Guilt and shame intersect when a particular sin is regarded, by yourself or others, to be worse than most sins. For example, get caught with child pornography and you will experience both guilt and shame. Same-sex attraction finds itself here too. But what if your anger briefly flares at a reckless driver? You might feel a little guilt but, most likely, no shame because everyone else has done similar things. 
Don't forget that your sensors for guilt and shame are fallible. They can be silent when they should say something, and they can also sound false alarms. But, false alarm or not, when we hear them we must do something. they don't turn off automatically." (11)

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