Guilt is when we feel we have done something bad.
Shame is when we feel we are bad.
Every once a while, guilt can be useful as it pushes us to take action and right things we’ve done wrong. Shame, on the other hand, does nothing constructive. First, it paralyzes us. Then, it goes on to mess with our sense of self-worth.
It is a fine line between a scolding that says – “Your actions created a mess” – and – “You are a mess.” But, that fine line is capable of inflicting a large amount of damage. I know someone who was made to wear a sign on their chest and walk around in public for a few days in return for a mistake they made. While the purpose may have been to guilt them, this had shame written all over it.
Good people do bad or mean things every once a while. This is especially true for kids who are still to understand the difference. Making them feel shame, sadly, is a self fulfilling prophecy.
Now that we know the difference, we will hopefully recognize it when we see it around us. Most importantly, we’ll be able to use the difference to make sure we steer clear of shaming in our lifetime.
HT: Brene Brown