Shame and Guilt Revelation
I was speaking to one of my daughters today. It was a rare moment for us to be alone with her. Typically, we talk like a mom and daughter talk. Today, I pushed it a bit further. We talked about everything, and then I posed a question. I asked her, “In your history, as far back as you can remember, regardless of who it is about because I won’t get mad or upset, what is your worst traumatic memory?”
The blood drained from her face as she quietly told me what it was. At that moment, she said she felt shame. Shame is feeling that YOU are not good enough. Guilt is when you do something bad. Shame = you are bad. Guilt = you did something bad.
In Christ, our shame is undone. She is a person who does not have shame because she has Christ in her. Guilt, yes, she had. She did do something terrible. It was a domino effect that we could pinpoint where it started. That is the beginning of healing.
Our Box of Shame
We all have a box of shame. Traumatic things happen. These are things that we don’t want to talk about ever. Because we don’t want to talk about it, we put it in our box and put a giant lock on it. We pray that box sits in the dark corner and shuts the hell up.
Then, we have a trigger. The trigger can cause a person to act irrationally, have potent emotions, and do things they would never do (or say). You can feel where your shame is being held in your body. It is different for everyone.
Dealing with shame has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Now, I’m hyperfocused when I lose my crap. There are moments amid my chaotic moment when I think, “what is wrong with me? Why am I doing/saying these things?” Sometimes that thought process diffuses the situation, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are times when I need a timeout.
Brene Brown has a shame and guilt TED Talk that I have listened to multiple times. I encourage you to listen to it because that is something that helped me understand the difference. As I stated above, shame and guilt are two different things. Shame is “I am a bad person,” and guilt is “I did something bad.”
As I was talking to my daughter, I told her that I had things in my past that had me engulfed in shame. When I think back on it, I get this rock feeling in my stomach. I then go further to think of the damage I have done and the situation’s outcome. So, if anything has happened, I blame myself for the entire future happenings in each of these. Does that make sense? So, shame has consumed me.
I didn’t share the details with my daughter because I’m not going to do that, but I did tell her how I felt and how that is more than guilt. It is shame. I was trying to encourage her to identify one thing that she feels shame about and teach her that it isn’t shame, but guilt. It is okay to feel guilty about something, but you can’t let it stir in you for too long.
My Goal in Helping Her Overcome Shame
My goal was to get her to take her “shame” box that is locked away and hidden, open it, and take one thing out. In that one thing, talk about it constantly. Write about it. Draw. Dissect it, find Scripture that helps you, and ask for forgiveness from God, yourself, and whoever was involved with you. Realize you don’t have to tell that person you are sorry physically. If you continue to talk about it (or write), eventually, you will be able to share your story without having those intense emotions, feelings of shame, and/or guilt, and you can distinguish between those two things.
Eventually, you will completely heal through the Lord’s guidance and grace. You will be able to take that one file from your shame box and have it fully processed and placed into your brain where it is no longer a “shame” feeling or a realization that it isn’t shame but a guilt feeling. It will soon just be a crappy life experience that no longer has power over you. It no longer consumes you.
There will be a point where you can identify those same emotions in someone else, and you can hold their hand while they find the beauty from their ashes. God uses your crappy life experiences to help someone else not live with those feelings of shame and guilt.
Her Box is Full. My Box is Full.
I explained that talking her story out (writing or drawing) takes power away from the enemy and allows her to heal. You can go back and learn from that experience and then help others.
I then flipped it back to my situation(s). As an adult, what I think of as intense shame for some problems when I was a young child, is horrific. Yet, because God doesn’t want me to do that (revelation), He placed a child in my home that did the same thing. When I discovered this, I scooped the child in my arms, and we rocked. We talked. This child talked. There was not one time I swirled her with shame or guilt. What I recognized was trauma. A severe trauma response to something that had occurred in that child’s life well before this child came to us.
Shaming or making this child feel guilty was not even on my horizon. I planned to find justice, alert other people, and get her into therapy. We did that, and justice was served. I never put two and two together until this conversation. There was not a moment I could correlate my experience with this child’s experience. They were different but the same. It’s hard to describe when I don’t share the details, which I’m not.
The Lord Intervened
He taught me to go back in time, like myself (a parent), and parent the child I was in those moments. Show her grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness. Remove the shame because shame can’t exist where Christ lives. Convert that to guilt but then discover the cause of that guilt. Then you can release that guilt.
I took that little girl version of me in situations where I previously felt shame, and I scooped her up and rocked her. We rocked and talked. She little girl me shared and disclosed, and adult me did what I needed to do. I did not consider her a shameful child or a child who should feel guilty. Immediately, I called who I needed to call in order to protect her and fight for her. There was an opportunity to say that she did nothing wrong and that those actions directly related to something else. It was something else that needed to be addressed, and she had no choice.
I immediately had a rush of emotions, a cleansing cry, and healing. This shame swirl that I’ve lived in for over 40 years is gone. Now, I have to address the other side of it. By doing that, I can further free myself from this and, in turn, help someone else in the same situation or mindset.
My goal was to help my daughter. I hope I did. In the end, however, I did help myself.