The Difference Between Guilt + Shame

I want to tell you something true.

I know it might be hard for you to hear it. It may grate on your relationship with shame. You might find yourself instinctually rejecting it. But it's true and I want you to hear it. So, take a breath, friend. Still your racing thoughts and hurried heart. Clear away the clutter of yesterday and of this morning. Just get quiet and vulnerable for a moment.

There is nothing that you have done to your body that is not redeemable. Nothing.

If you have starved your body, you are redeemed.

If you have forced your body to purge over and over again,  you are redeemed.

If you have binged until you felt numb, you are redeemed.

If you have battered your body with shaming workouts, you are redeemed.

If you have mutilated your body, you are redeemed.

If you have stood in the mirror and whispered hateful shame over your body, you are redeemed.

If you have compared your body, you are redeemed.

If you have idolized your body, you are redeemed.

If you have inflicted pain and fear and rejection on every inch of your body, you are redeemed.

There is NOTHING that you have done to your body that is not redeemable. Nothing.

My girlfriend told me yesterday about a Brene Brown talk she had listened to. Brene said something to the effect of, "Shame is saying 'I am a bad person', but guilt is saying, 'I have done something wrong'". There is a huge, chasm of difference between guilt and shame. If, right now, you are trembling in your vulnerability because the truth of your redemption just will not sink deep enough, then I would suggest that shame is your liar.

Sometimes we can't move forward because we can't settle with what we've done to our bodies. In the name of beauty, and acceptance, and value, and love, and fitting in we have wounded our own bodies. That's a hard thing to shake. Shame gets sticky like a glue and it just won't let us separate WHO we are from WHAT we've done. You may be guilty, sister. You may have done things to your body that are sad and painful and broken. That may be a small 't' truth. But the BIG 'T' truth is this: YOU ARE REDEEMED. It is forgiven, wiped clean, washed away, settled and sealed. It is finished.

You know Paul? The Paul who brought the message of redemption and hope to thousands of people; whose words we read and memorize and mediate on. That Paul was once Saul. Saul had cause for shame. He had ordered the death of Christians. He had hunted people. Paul was once Saul who needed to be blinded on a road to Damascus. He needed God to get in his way, to handicap him. He needed the kind of intervention that leaves nothing to be debated. But God didn't get in Saul's way because he just wanted him to stop. God got in Saul's way because he wanted Paul to build his church. He wanted a man whose guilt he could turn into redemption. He wanted Saul to become Paul, so he staged an intervention. He humbled Saul. He brought him low. And shame would have left him there.

God does not deal in shame, sisters. God deals in redemption. Saul's guilt became Paul's redemption.

Later in his life Paul wrote this:

"Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.  God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins."
[2 corinthians 5]

Your guilt will become your redemption. Without exception. Without fail. You are not excluded from the fresh start. It doesn't matter what you've done. You. Are. Redeemed.

Today's challenge, sisters: make a list of everything you have done to your body. It's your list. No one else has to ever see it. Next to each line write the word, "redeemed". And, when shame starts to creep in again, come back to Paul's words; the words that came spilling from his new life, his Paul life. You are no longer Saul, friend. Today you are Paul. 

*October 2013