Have you ever felt guilty? Have you ever felt ashamed? Could you articulate the difference?
There are several different ways to get at the difference, but for me guilt centers around actions and behavior while shame centers around being. Guilt says, “I did a bad thing.” Shame says, “I am bad.”
What’s interesting is that the same actions can lead to guilt in one person but shame in another person. If two people fail an exam, one might feel guilty regarding a behavior, “I didn’t study enough.” The other person might feel the failure in their very being and say, “I am stupid.”
As a pastor, I am sensitive to the difference because the Gospel to guilt is different from the Gospel to shame. The Gospel to guilt is forgiveness for the behavior. The Gospel to shame is persistent proclamation of identity in Christ: You are a child of God and He loves you for who you are.
Romans 8:1 gets at both guilt and shame as succinctly as any verse can, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You are not condemned for your actions. You are not condemned for who you are. Indeed, your condemnation has been taken away for you are forgiven in Christ and you will always be His beloved child no matter what.
You are in Christ. No one can condemn you. Not even yourself. Jesus loves you and He always will.
God’s blessings on your day. Keep the faith.