November 10, 2014 | 02:33 pm
Posted by Former WECC Minister Rev. Michael Bos

Guilt Can Be Good for You—Or So They Say

Last week The Wall Street Journal ran an article on guilt versus shame. It stated “there’s a fine line between guilt, which is feeling bad about your behavior, and shame, which is feeling bad about yourself.”

Though we often see guilt as a negative emotion, June Tangney, a professor of psychology, says that guilt can be positive. When we’ve done something wrong, she says guilt “pushes people to repair the harm they did.” In addition, by recognizing our own failings it also creates empathy for others.

Shame, on the other hand, is not a useful emotion. When we’ve been deeply wounded by others and trust is broken, shame can result, leaving us with doubts about our worthiness to be loved and accepted. We begin to believe we are defective, causing us to cover up who we are.

Brene Brown says the bottom line with shame is this: "The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment."

Church should never be a cover up culture in which we hide our guilt or shame. In the case of guilt, talking about it may provide the motivation to make positive change. And in the case of shame, by exposing it to the light of day, it allows others to help us release shame’s power so that we do not see ourselves as less than who we are—instead we can see ourselves in the light of who God created us to be.