Understanding Shame and Guilt

  1. Godly Shame (Healthy Shame)
    • Godly shame is based on our understanding that we are not God.
  • We have limitations and boundaries and we understand the benefit of staying within Godly boundaries.
  • We feel good about ourselves; as Christians we are not only part of His creation, we are members of God’s Eternal Family … we are princes among men and princesses among women.
  • We feel acceptable and accepted by God because of what He has done for us.
    • Godly shame produces a sense of humility.
    • It is the source of our spirituality in that we increasingly know our need for God.
    • Godly shame brings us close to God; we turn our heart and face toward Him.
  1. Worldly Shame (Unhealthy Shame)
    • This shame causes one to feel defective.
  • One has not done something wrong, they are inherently wrong or defective.
  • Satan uses Worldly Shame to beat us down and destroy our “God-esteem.”
  • Satan’s goal has not changed: he continues to steal, kill, and destroy and he uses unhealthy shame to accomplish this.
    • When we make a mistake – an error of any kind revealing the fact that we are imperfect – an overwhelming feeling of shame, a feeling less-than or worthless, can come over us.
    • Shame of the world leaves us with the feeling (or thoughts) that “I am a bad person” or “I am a defective person”.  We feel that our less-than-good-enough status has been exposed.
    • Satan and sinful people are the authors of this shame.


  1. Godly Guilt (Healthy Guilt) – 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (The Message)

“I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.  Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets; end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

    • Guilt is the alarm signal that allows us to be moral beings.
    • It is the feeling that tells us when we have transgressed an ethical principle or a Godly command.
    • God uses the feeling of guilt to help us experience a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance.
    • Guilt is a universal feeling that comes upon good people who have actually done something wrong; ethically, morally, socially, spiritually wrong.
  1. Guilt of the World (Unhealthy Guilt)
    • Guilt of the world is seen in people who may have some remorse over what they have done but it does not lead to repentance.
    • Their sorrow is rooted in the fact they were found out or caught.
    • It can also lead to a person experiencing generalized feelings of guilt and condemnation even when they have not done anything wrong.
  • They may feel guilty for setting an appropriate boundary or for just saying no to a request.
  • Worldly guilt is used by Satan and by sinful people to beat us down and incapacitate us.
  • Worldly guilt is an etherial feeling that cannot be easily shaken off and because we have not actually done something wrong, we can not repent.  Therefore, worldly guilt lingers and disturbs us.
  • Worldly guilt negatively impacts us in that we feel we can’t work for God or the advancement of His Kingdom.


Murphy Toerner – 1992