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longgone's avatar

What is "guilt" to you? What is "shame"?

Asked by longgone (15070points) 1 month ago

Rather than definitions, I’m looking for how these feelings manifest in different people. What’s the internal dialogue of a guilty person? What thoughts accompany a sense of shame? If you imagine those feelings in yourself, what’s going through your mind?

I think the answers to those questions are very personal – so, if possible, please answer before reading other responses.

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12 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Guilt is what I feel when I have transgressed some rule. Shame is what I feel when I have gone against some accepted norm of behavior.

I felt guilt for disobeying my parents as a child. I felt deep shame for being a homosexual for many years.

MrGrimm888's avatar

To me, “guilt,” is the feeling that one gets from a negative reaction, based on a decision that they made.

“Shame,” is the feeling one gets, from a negative reaction, based on a decision that they made, likely understanding that were always going to be negative ramifications.

Shame, is probably different, or subjective, depending on one’s culture, and personal beliefs.

Example. One might be ashamed, that they married someone who has a different religion, than they do. Or that they had something embarrassing that they did exposed.

Guilt, is probably similar.

Example. I feel guilty killing hurting people, or other lifeforms, even insects. Others might feel guilty, that they couldn’t kill an animal, that would have fed their tribe for a week.

When I have moments of introspection, I often am talking to myself. But if I’m reflecting on certain things, I will deliberately use both words, in the same sentence. Indicating that, IMO, although they are very similar emotions, they have differences between them…

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Guilt is what you have when you know you did something wrong and feel bad about it. Shame is when others know too which makes you feel even worse.

zenvelo's avatar

Here is Beene Brown’s view on the difference, it articulates my belief.

“There is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@zenvelo I like that. Thank you for sharing that.

KNOWITALL's avatar

For me guilt is a wasted emotion like jealousy. I dont tolerate much of it in myself.

So you try to justify, rationalize, and when all that is boiled down to the truth, you realize that you simply want what you want and will sometimes break every law of man and God to have it.

Are you a pos or are you simply a fallible human?
Does it matter? You can try to hide it, not have repercussions, but you will always know what you did. It cant be taken back.

So make sure whatever creates the guilt and shame is well worth the price you pay, by the light of day. And the legal system.

MrGrimm888's avatar

It’s relevant to note, that some people are incapable of feeling either, due to anatomical abnormalities…

JLeslie's avatar

Guilt is a feeling I have when I feel I have hurt someone. It is extremely important that people feel guilt. Feeling badly when you hurt someone is part of empathy and part of a healthy conscience. Guilt drives us to remedy wrongs. Like any emotion, too much of it, or obsessing about it, is unhealthy. Holding onto guilt can be detrimental. Over time, if there is no way to apologize or fix what you might feel guilty about, then you have to forgive yourself and move forward.

Shame is different. It is similar to embarrassment, but much worse, and often mixed with secrecy. I’ve said many times that shame will rot your sole. Many people carry shame around from their childhood, and it isn’t good. The shame might be something the person themselves did, or something about their family. I think it is a feeling of being less worthy. Being or doing something that robs you of being able to tell the truth about your life. It usually causes lies and secrecy as mentioned earlier in this paragraph, and those things are terrible burdens. A lot of the time the shame is unnecessary, and the person is much harder on themselves, much more judgmental than others would be if they just told their truth. I see shame a lot when people compare themselves to others, and idealize others.

ucme's avatar

Guilt is the pussy in all of us striving for impossible moral perfection.
Shame is deserving after you realise, hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a pussy.
Flaws & inherent vulnerability are what makes us who we are…human.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ucme I was hoping to hear from across the pond, ya’ll have much less puritanical values. To me, you’re just more discreet. Much more civilized in acknowledging the human condition. Bravo.

dabbler's avatar

I like to consider guilt in a legal sense, being literally responsible for something undesirable.
Shame would be how someone with a conscience feels about being guilty.

flutherother's avatar

When we do something wrong we feel guilt. When others find out what we did we feel shame

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