The Apostle Paul shares an interesting concept in 2 Corinthians 7:10, where he writes, “For godly grief (sorrow) produces repentance …. Whereas worldly grief (sorrow) produces death.” If we would apply these words to recovery we see the difference between guilt and shame.
I see “godly grief” as a picture of guilt. When we experience guilt, we intensely feel the pain of how we have hurt another in a relationship. “Godly grief” moves us toward the attitudes and behaviors that can heal a relationship, whether it is with a spouse or with our savior. Guilt is about the other person and making amends or reparations that reflect repentance. That is, we move toward the person with a stance of taking responsibility for our actions, and thus we get to write the end of the story.
“Worldly grief” is about shame. And, shame is about us – that is, “how bad I am,” or “how flawed,” versus seeing how I have harmed another or the relationship. Shame is a trap of self-absorbed ruminations that prohibits us from seeing the pain of another and inhibits a restoration of the relationship.
As you walk your personal journey of recovery, remember that “godly grief” is the direction of healing, whereas shame isolates us in a spiral of spiritual and emotional self-judgment that is in direct opposition to God’s position of “no condemnation.”
Today, perhaps you might pray, “Lord, help me experience your forgiveness and acceptance and be willing, in that love, to move toward the pain of another.”
Ted Baldick, Ph.D.
Healing for Men leader