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EP. 182 Four Ways We Cope with Shame

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

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Welcome to a new week of the Hope Rescue Podcast. This week we are continuing our series on the topic of guilt and shame.

What is the difference between guilt and shame? Many people use these words interchangeably but they actually have very different meanings and impacts on our lives.

Guilt is a necessary and healthy feeling we get when we have messed up, and typically the path that follows guilt leads to correction in our lives.

Shame is the feeling that we are wrong, and there is nothing we can do to fix it. Shame enters the scene when we begin to identify by our past mistakes. Instead of saying, “I struggle with over drinking,” someone with shame in the matter may say, “I am an alcoholic.” It’s incredibly common to feel like we have to spend the rest of our lives identifying as something we did wrong in the past, but that is not how God views our lives. We were all created in His image, and have the option to identify as sons and daughters of the living God. That doesn’t mean we will never struggle with anything, but our identity will be set in the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.

In 1992, Psychiatrist Donald Nathanson developed the concept of the compass of shame. (See image below for details.) The compass of shame identifies four different types of human responses in order to cope with shame in our lives: withdrawal, attacking self, avoidance, and attacking others.

Withdrawal - When we feel shame, we commonly isolate ourselves. When we’re alone, we’re alone in the darkness of our shame and it’s nearly impossible to heal. To heal, we need a safe and encouraging friend to grieve and share with openly.

Attack Self - When we feel shame, we tend to internalize the feeling that we not only did something wrong, but we are wrong. We don’t have to identify by our greatest failures, but shame wraps our identity in our mistakes.

Avoidance - Some tend to avoid shame through distraction. When we feel shame, it’s common to distract ourselves with a variety of things, whether it’s alcohol, working out, or simply filling our schedules so tightly that we don’t even have time to think about what we’ve done wrong.

Attack Others - When we feel shame, we can tear down or bully others around us, either physically or with our words. The shame in our lives causes us to reduce others and make them feel miserable alongside us.

We will be taking a three week break from the podcast, but we will be back in the new year with more practical tips for living a Christ-centered life. Merry Christmas, happy new year, and thank you for your support throughout the years.

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