Comparison: Shame and Guilt
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast” ~~ 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
“Shame is an intense feeling of angst that makes you wish you could evaporate; extreme humiliation and remorse; a despairing of life from abject embarrassment. Shame is deeper than guilt. It is not based on having done something wrong so much as a soul ache of being wrong at the core. Shame is more piercing than condemnation where the reality of judgment is mentally apprehended from an outside arbitrator. With shame, we palpably feel our own depravity in vivid self-realization.” http://www.acts17-11.com/shame.html.
Guilt, on the other hand, is based on a feeling that something has gone against your morals and values system. Guilt says “I have done something wrong” while shame is “the fierce and intense feeling of not being worthy.”
Shame is one (if not the most) powerful emotion we can feel that can completely define “who we are” and “how we see ourselves in this world.” Shame can attach itself to us and cause us to become isolated, to keep secrets, and suffer in silence. Why, because we believe a narrative that we are unworthy of anything other than this. Our life experiences cause us to believe we have been found unworthy. The more people experience this intense feeling the greater they believe they are not accepted or have any value as a person. Based on past experiences, we have come to believe that we are not worthy of connection and in some way have failed ourselves, God and others.
The root word of shame means to cover. So, what do we do in our attempts to cover this apparent unworthiness? Do we open up Facebook and see what everyone else is doing? Do we compare our lives to theirs? Do we drink, shop, eat, or exercise based on what others are doing? Can you relate to what you are reading right now? Are you caught in this comparison trap? Do you attempt to relieve the pressure of this intense feeling by being a “people pleaser?”
How do you respond to the external environment when you are triggered by a word, sound, smell, or even seeing a certain person or finding yourself in a particular situation? What do you do when your body begins to sweat and your heart races; and all of a sudden you feel this fierce sensation come throughout your body? Do you run from the shame and hide as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden?
So, why is it that we try to cover ourselves? Is it because we are embarrassed and feel humiliated by the intense feeling of shame? Are we afraid that if others “really knew us, they truly would find us to be unworthy of their love or friendship?” Or, like some, do we defend ourselves and lash out? So, how do you fight against shame? What do you do to protect yourself? And what can you do to guard yourself – to guard your heart?
Bob Goff gives us his answer: “We will not be distracted by comparison if we are captivated by purpose.”
Then, too, let’s look to God’s Word that says we are without understanding or unwise if we compare ourselves to others: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” ~~ 2 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV).
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do you want joy – real joy? Then purpose to cease from comparison to others.
Until recently for me, when I am have been backed into a corner, I have fought and fought hard. The words were never nice. In fact, unfortunately, I have hurt many with my words. When this fierce emotion came over me I wanted to attack and defend myself. This need to protect and guard my heart, never ended well, by the way. In fact, my relationship with those that I truly love and admire became fragmented because of my actions. The result was that felt even more guilt and even more unworthy of the other person’s love.
Consider this passage of the Bible: “For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” ~~ Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV).
Let’s not kid ourselves. God sees us; He understands us, and He has the solution to both guilt and shame. It is found in receiving His love! Instead of trying to protect ourselves or defend our position, what if we changed our narrative, pressed pause, hit mute, took a step back, and became still? What if we allowed the Lord to speak to us words of acceptance, of value to Him. For we are truly loved and so secure in our relationship in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is the TRUTH! Do we believe this narrative? Here is where courage and empathy are birthed, compassion moves in, and shame is shut down! For shame and guilt can only survive in secret, silent places.
I have recently and intentionally chosen to live free and full, to allow myself to become vulnerable and authentic, to be purposeful in my relationships with those I love, to connect with those around me, to receive – then to reach out with God’s love and compassion, and daily rest in the knowledge that I belong! This is because of what HE says about me, not because of what I have experienced or have not experienced. This is a hard place to live, why, because I fail miserably most of the time! Like you, I am human; I’m not perfect! Yet, I am secure in my Father’s love. And you can be, too!
Now I choose to take the time to be still before Him and hold fast to His promise found in Hebrews 4:14: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.”
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, You have called me worthy! By Your grace, You have MADE ME worthy. You have called me Your daughter, and You know my name. I stand amazed that even the hairs on my head are numbered! Father, help me to see that even in my imperfections You are making me whole! Lord, I receive Your love and acceptance, and I thank You that I belong to You. I am a child of Your Kingdom. I don’t belong to this world. Please help me when the intense feeling of shame overrides my emotional state, that I never again attempt to run away or join the world or resist. Help me instead to make the choice to hit the pause button and focus upon You and what You have done for just me! Amen!
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” ~~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV).