Guilt vs Shame
Between the terms Guilt and Shame, we can identify a number of differences. Guilt and shame are not the tools of the almighty. God has not chosen us to have these feelings as Christ paid for our wrong doings, isn’t it? Guilt and shame are unwanted or undesired feelings that can make a human being suffer a lot mentally. There is no standardization or dividing line between these two similar feelings that make people hide their face from others. You have these feelings when you have sinned against someone or humanity, in general. A child bringing disrepute to his family has feelings of shame and guilt while a person having cheated on his wife and punished by a court of law may feel ashamed. But what is the difference? Let us try to find out.
What is Guilt?
The feeling of guilt is a positive one as only after a person feels guilty for something wrong that he has done that he corrects his behavior. The rule of sentencing prison and incarceration is meant to make a person realize the mistake he has made, to make him feel guilty. Many psychologists have written that guilt arises because of actions while shame arises when one is evaluating oneself in comparison to others. One feels shamed about himself as a person, but he is guilty when he feels the pain of having done something wrong, when he has caused pain and hurt someone else.
For an example imagine you scold a friend because you were too stressed out. At the heat of the moment, you scold the friend for a trivial matter. It is only after some time that you realize that it was wrong. Then you tend to feel guilty for hurting her. This is the nature of guilt. Shame is a bit different. Now let us focus on the term shame.
What is Shame?
Shame is a negative feeling about oneself, whether real or just a perception. If there are two sisters with one being very fair and beautiful while the other one being dark and ugly, there ought to be comparison, and this leads to feelings of shame in the sister who is not beautiful. This negative feeling is a harmful one that makes her feel sorry for her appearance. ‘Shame on you’ is what your teacher or mother shouts when you have done something that is not correct morally like stealing a pen or throwing a chalk on the back of the teacher. It is when our wrong doing is caught by others or made public that we start to feel shame and guilt.
However, one must bear in mind that there is no hard and fast rule as to whether a person feels shame or guilt after an event as same action can induce shame in a person while inducing guilt in another person. There are the feelings of repentance and remorse after guilt, and the person wants to make amends. On the other hand, in the case of shame, there are the feelings of worthlessness and dejection. We feel ashamed when we have failed our parents or dear ones or when we feel we have not come up to their expectations. However, this feeling has to be constructive to better ourselves and not to inflict pain upon our psyche. When the feeling of shame builds up and starts to weigh us down, it becomes dangerous for us psychologically.
What is the Difference Between Guilt and Shame?
- Both guilt and shame are negative feelings, but while guilt is about something that we might have done, shame is about self.
- When we feel bad about self as a person, the feeling is a negative and harmful one and called shame.
- When we feel bad about our action, we feel guilty, and it leads to correction in our behavior and action.
1.”Singer Sargent, John – Orestes Pursued by the Furies – 1921″ by John Singer Sargent [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2.Shame by Libertinus Yomango [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
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