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Guilt or Shame?

One of the topics that Morpheus and I touch on quite a bit is guilt and its stepbrother, shame.  I tend to think the difference is a matter of severity, i.e. shame is “worse” than guilt.  I am guilty about all the things I am ashamed of but I’m not ashamed of all the things I’m guilty of.

When we talked a bit more about it, she was trying to show me that they are two separate things.  I didn’t really understand what she meant until I read The Difference Between Guilt and Shame by Joseph Burgo, PhD.  Shame is much more about “self”, I am ashamed of something that I did that reflects, at least to me, a personal shortcoming.  Guilt is much more about how something I did affects other people, did I do something to make others feel bad?

I’ve written before about how I’ve felt guilty that I survived when so many others haven’t.  Others that seemed to be working so much harder at survival that I was.

After reading that article, I don’t think that I’m guilty at all.

I think I am ashamed.

Since I was supposed to die before I got through college, it was a failure on my part that I didn’t.  I am ashamed at how my survival, with such little effort, has hurt others.  Made them angry and ask “why him?”.  Hurting others is something I don’t want to do and it is definitely a personal shortcoming for me if it happens because I “failed” to do something.

Fucking red pill…

© 2012 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • If guilt and shame our stepbrothers, I would say that I am better acquainted with their cousin anger. 

    •  Yea, I know that SOB as well

    • And I with Anger’s brother, Jealousy. It’s a crazy family tree.

  • Jacquie

    Isn’t it crazy — the things we can pick out of our lives to feel shame over? And how you can not even realize that that’s what’s going on in your head until you take the fucking red pill?

    My own red pill has shown me that, while I don’t have so much shame over the diabetes thing, I have a lot of shame about being depressed — which makes for a lovely self-fulfilling prophecy of the sads. 

    •  I’m not ashamed of diabetes itself…  and for me, depression has been around so long that it falls in with diabetes as something that has left an indelible mark on my life but not something I am ashamed of.

      depression is so hard to talk about sometimes.  At least with anyone except yourself and in my case, I  was the absolute worse choice in therapists…


  • Mike Hoskins

    Apparently, I’m all up in the branches of that tree…

    •  I’ve noticed it just happens to be a thorn tree as well…

  • Bob P

    This is a tremendously useful distinction. It fits into the CP post I wrote last week. It also fits with my feelings about some of the things that I feel make me unusual – not driving, not watching movies or most tv, etc. I do not feel culpable for any of those things, but I do feel shame about them. Actually, I find myself wondering if shame is quite the right word. My TV habits don’t bother me a bit: what bothers me is the fear of what others might say about it. Hmm.

    •  hmmm… maybe embarrassment?  Even though there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about?

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