Guilt is a gift; shame is toxic. Guilt helps you be able to recognize what you did wrong and remember it so you to not make that mistake again. Shame on the other hand, says statements such as “I am bad” or “who does this?” – statements in which beat yourself up. There is a distinct difference between the two but it can still be easy to mix up in the moment.
Shame portrays itself in two different ways: self-denigration and self-adulation. Self-denigration is an act of feeling like you don’t matter to yourself or anyone. An example of this includes: “I always mess up. I am the worst. I am a problem and am less than others.” Self-adulation is covering up your shame with pride and acting as though you are better than others. Examples of this include “I will never mess up. I am the best there is. I am always right and a gift to society.” It is human nature to sometimes stumble into these thinking patterns; maybe not as extreme as the examples, but still in the same family. Realizing you are in distortion is the first step, and getting yourself into the truth of the situation is the second.
Guilt is taking responsibility for your actions, WITHOUT beating yourself up about it. Guilt says things like “I messed up” or “I need help” or “I choose poorly.” You are analyzing your behavior, not your identity. Guilt is healthy and encourages change if you let it. Without guilt, we would continue to make the same mistakes. However, shame is absolutely unnecessary and is coming entirely from the adversary. I challenge you to stay in the truth of a situation when you find yourself becoming trapped in self-adulation or self-denigration. You can do this by simply remembering what the TRUTH is and remove that from what your pride or the adversary may try to tell you.
It’s so easy for people to get wrapped up in drama and not stay present. However, differentiating the truth from distortion helps you maintain a clear mind and a positive outlook on life. What is truth? Truth is stating the things you absolutely know to be the truth in a situation. Distortion on the other hand, is making up stories in our heads that don’t match up with these truth statements. It is crucial we replace our constant distortions with affirmations of the truth. One example follows: “Sadie always ignores me; I must not be a good enough sister to get her attention.” This is total distortion! The truth is as follows: “There could be numerous reasons why Sadie isn’t talking to me and it has NOTHING to do with my worth. I am a daughter of God and am always good enough no matter what. I am responsible for myself and myself only.” That feels WAY better than the first version and this is what the truth is. At the end of the day, we all have infinite worth and any thought that tries to tell us the opposite is coming from the adversary. It’s okay to have thoughts of distortion and it’s actually human nature to go right to the defensive side. However, it is up to us whether we let these thoughts linger or replace them with affirmations of the truth.
Another example is as follows: “My roommate always takes my stuff. She doesn’t even respect me and things like this are always happening to me. Everyone walks all over me and I’m sick of it.” These sentences reflect living in shame. It is out option to look at ourselves like the target, but beating ourselves down is only dramatizing a story and being extremely unkind to ourselves. The truth is as follows: “I wonder if my roommate knows I don’t like her taking my stuff. I know this tends to happen a lot so I think I will politely ask her if she could ask next time. I can’t control so if she doesn’t change, so I will set boundaries to show love to myself. I know my worth and her taking my things has nothing at all to do with my personal worth.” Speaking in truth is truly like a breath of fresh air! It increases your energy immensely and helps you think in the best mindset possible. I challenge you to replace those negative thoughts with what you know to be the truth in the situation. It’s crazy difficult, but so possible! If you continue to work and practice at it, it will soon become second nature!