What’s the difference between shame and guilt?
In chapter 7, Paul is expressing his joy in the ‘godly sorrow’ that his letter produced in the church of Corinth:
“Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 7:9-10
Guilt is the feeling that comes when you’re convicted of your sin. You know the feeling. It’s the way your heart sinks when you hear yourself blatantly lying. Distractions and escapism can help a little, but it’s the weighted feeling that keeps you up at night or haunts your relationships. It’s what washes over you when you indulge in your addictions or purposely hurt someone. It’s acknowledging “what I did was bad”.
Shame is also the result of sin, but lingers around after repentance and reconciliation. It’s a lie that says “you are bad, and nothing can help you”. And like Paul said, it results in spiritual death. It isolates you. It strangles your communication with God. It pulls you out of community. Shame is a liar.
Jesus relentlessly went after people bogged down by shame. The woman at the well (John 4). The hemorrhaging woman, desperately grabbing at his cloak, yet too afraid to face him (Mark 5). The children, scolded by the disciples as obnoxious (Matthew 19).
The very first time mankind experiences shame, God combats it by pulling a devastated Adam and Eve out of the bushes and clothing them (Genesis 3).
The lie of shame is “there’s no answer for your sin” and the Voice of Truth tells us “I am the answer to your sin”.
Is there sin in your life you need to repent of?
Is there sin that you have repented of, but still have some lingering shame because of it? Listen to the Voice of Truth!