Guilt And Shame Are Not The Same: One Triggers An Apology The Other Cannot Muster - Grasshopper
It has intrigued me for a number of years that a certain portion of the population has trouble apologizing. From my vantage point, it's always been about immaturity, but it goes deeper than that for some. It's about shame.
A stubborn, immature teenager avoids apologies more than cleaning their room. That's par for the course. It's something most of us outgrow.
But there is something more than immaturity that keeps an apology in one's pocket for a lifetime. It's shame.
I perceived guilt and shame as identical twins until I read something from Dr. Paul Ekman. He's the man the TV show "Lie To Me" is based upon.
He wrote: "Guilt is felt about an action that we know was wrong. Shame is felt not about an action but about who and what we are; if anyone really knew who and what we are, they would be repulsed. Guilt motivates a confession of wrong doing, shame inhibits it."
What I get from that is that some people are so ashamed that they cannot admit their guilt. It would be like having their dirty little secret go viral on YouTube. Sadly, instead, it goes unwashed to the grave with them.
The cleansing power of an apology is like a rising tide – it lifts all boats.
If you choose to lift the pain of your shame, you also lift the radiating pain for all who suffer from your silence.
Our secret is so encased in our social mask that removing it would mean that we would disappear. Losing this false identity is perceived as a fate worse than death. That's why we take pains to hold on tightly to our mask and shame.
Life's biggest secret is that we are not who we pretend to be. We have a conditioned portion of us that has taken on a life of its own, separate and apart from our depth, and it masquerades as us on the surface.
When you apologize, you crack the mask and you crack the code for allowing shame to disappear.
You can still feel guilty about your actions if you choose, but, once released, you'll never choose the pain of shame again.
Just remember this: You don't have to apologize for who you are, just who you aren't. You aren't a container for shame.
All the best,
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