Well-Being//

The Danger of Shame

And how it differs from guilt.


Being downcast and heartbroken over life’s ups and downs are part of life. Giving shame space to take root within yourself is the last thing you will need in your life.

Yes, love and hate are powerful emotions. They carry weight, turning peaceful conversations (if hate is evident) into rage-filled clashes. When love is present, there might be a better, easier way of having a talk with someone else.

But the power of shame cannot be denied. How many people walk around, no matter how successful or financially prosperous they might be, and feel this dread cloaking over their heads?

Let’s take a look at the cleft and craniofacial community worldwide. Many people are at the powerful end of a pointed finger or staring eyes, being called names indiscriminately while being physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually abused … and for not one thing those beloved people did. Their supposed crime? They “look different” than other people.

Two Separate Emotional States

Shame and guilt are two separate emotional states. Shame’s core message is “I am bad” while guilt’s core message is “I feel bad.” A lot of great work around shame has been done by Brene’ Brown in recent years, and touched upon many years ago by the late John Bradshaw.

When I have acted irresponsibly in my life, there is definitely guilt which arises. Shame just compounds guilt’s enforced message, so it does me and you a great disservice to deny shame hangs around.

Now I understand if you believe that shame is not the last thing you need in your life. What about air, water, food, exercise, sex, money, safety, security, serenity, sanity, or spirituality? Friends, family, connections, love, compassion, empathy? This list can go on ad infinitum. The list of positive attributes that you and I need in life is definitely the place to hang our hats.

I would say that these are part of the most important things you will need in life.

Shame, though, is never on this list.

Learn The Difference Between Shame and Guilt

If you give yourself an opportunity to discern an inner relationship between shame and guilt, then there’s a great chance to make a difference in people’s lives. No, you don’t necessarily have to travel in foreign lands to make this difference. It can happen through interactions with your wife, husband, significant other, best friend or “tribe” (meaning your close group of friends and confidants).

This battle between shame and guilt can leave me an emotional wreck. I know it can have the same effect upon others, too.

I’ve seen it and, if you are honest with yourself, you have, too. Just walk into toxic work environments, trust your inner intuition, and see if the place’s emotional energy clings to you like a Ghostbuster being slimed.

Yes indeed, you and I definitely know that slimy feeling when it comes to shame.

So, it is important to understand the difference between both emotional states. I would encourage individuals, especially in the cleft and craniofacial community, to tackle these matters.

In business and life, shame conveys powerful messages which lead to serious emotional problems.

When you do this work, though, your life changes.

When I do this work, my life changes.

Together, we can make a difference in the people we meet in our lives.

Give it a try.


Originally published at iamjoerutland.com on September 3, 2016.

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