Thursday, May 22, 2014

Godly Sorrow: Guilt vs. Shame

I had a conversation with my husband the other night when he had slipped in his own addiction again. He was hitting a low on it, and I tried to tell him not to let it get him down so much but he thought he needed to feel bad, otherwise he felt like he wasn't taking it as seriously as it needed to be taken. I understood what he meant. We don't want to make light of serious things or shrug things off as "no big deal" because that is a tool of denial used in the past before recovery. In recovery we must take responsibility for our wrongs.

But I don't think we need to drag ourselves in the dust either.

Finally the idea came into my mind as an example that I could explain more clearly to my husband. We mustn't allow ourselves to get healthy feelings of guilt for sin mixed up with being ashamed of ourselves. There is a big difference in these two feelings after committing a wrong. One of them is another of Satan's tools to drag us further into our mistakes. The other is Godly sorrow. Can you guess which is which?

I described these examples:
When we feel guilty for our sin, feeling healthy Godly sorrow, we are separate from the sin. Our inner dialog would sound something like this: "I feel bad for doing what I have done because I know it is wrong. I shouldn't have done it because I am better than that. I am worth more than that. I don't want to do it again."

When we cross the line into shame, suddenly our inner dialog is much darker and Satan can use it against us to drive us further into our sins and problems. It sounds something like this: "I feel terrible for doing what I have done because I wanted to do it. But it is who I am and I loath myself because I did this terrible thing and feel like I want to do it again." We drive ourselves into self-loathing so much, while also enabling ourselves and excusing our behavior by saying it is who we are. Satan can take this and drive us further into doing terrible deeds until we hate ourselves even more, hate the world, and do even worse things that we hate.  It's a vicious cycle that I believe has driven people to all kinds of horrible acts in this world, even murder. I honestly think that at one point in a murderer's life they began innocently, but turned to this self loathing or self "acceptance" as some in the world may put it, and drive themselves deeper and deeper into the pit of sin.

I believe my examples hit home to my husband and helped him pull himself out of the despair of shame and into the more healthy light of feeling guilt for sin, or Godly sorrow, which is much more healthy and productive for recovery.

I hope as we all recover we can be careful about distinguishing between these feelings and so we can be kept free from Satan's shackles and remember our value as children of God with great purpose.

I am not my addiction.

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