Shame & Guilt: An Internal Mirror

Shame and guilt. Why do we feel ashamed or guilty for our actions or inactions? Why is it that after breaking a promise or a commitment we feel ashamed to meet or come across the people we’ve betrayed? Why do we sit behind the shadows hoping it’ll get to pass but deep within there’s some anguish and distress that we go through?

Over the weekend I had a moment to chat with a friend at length about life and its dynamics. Such moments are not easy to come by and so when they do, we hope to make the most of them. Next times are never guaranteed anyway even though we hope for them. Through the discourse, one of the critical themes that came up was on self-shame and guilt which made me think further into the subject hoping to unraveling the dynamics of it. In essence, I am of the idea that as human beings we have an internal compass that helps us conceive what we consider right or wrong, conscience. Having a conscience is attributed to feelings of guilt for our humanity is inclined to doing good and even when we fail, deep within we acknowledge we have erred from the right thing. As such, it’s by acknowledging our fault that we feel shame and guilt. It’s even more pronounced when the person we’ve disappointed is an individual who’ve consistently been a rock in our lives. This is so as human relations are anchored on trust and in such instances we happen to have betrayed the trust.

What then should we do when feel shame/guilt for our actions or inactions? From varied literature sources, shame and guilt have been considered as negative emotions which should be avoided or overcome. I affirm this line of thinking and while at it acknowledge that in so doing, we need to address the root cause of the same. As alluded to above, it’s our shortcomings based on our conscience that make us feel ashamed in such circumstances. It then means that our guilt is a internal mirror for us to course correct and make amends. It’s our internal compass letting us know that we’ve gone against our very core beliefs, ideals and humanity. In so doing, we get to explore ways of making amends from within, seeking out those we’ve wronged, making amends and committing to live by our ideals. In so doing, we stand a chance of reducing the anxieties that come with shame/guilt as well as the heartache that we cause in the world through our actions or inactions.

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