This is the fifth story in our “Freedom From…” Series, an 8-week series featuring women who have faced adversity and found freedom in the process.
As a financial planner, I meet with clients and discuss one of the most personal topics there is… money. We don’t just discuss money, which in and of itself isn’t that personal, but we discuss their money: how they spend it, save it, and give it. Many people who come to see me have a lot of guilt and shame concerning money. They feel they should have done better with managing their money, they don’t have enough, they have spent it foolishly, they don’t know anything about money, and on and on. I have heard the word embarrassed stated many times in my office.
Through my own journey in life, I have learned a couple of definitions that have helped me overcome feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt is similar to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which draws us to repentance. When guilt is healthy, it is designed to warn us when we are going astray. It is that pang we feel deep down inside when we do something wrong. It is about an action or behavior. For example, when we snap at our kids or call in sick when we really aren’t sick or tell a lie about something, we have a nagging feeling, and that feeling tells us we have done wrong.
The good news is that guilt shows us our conscience is functioning. We want to have some sort of GPS that warns us and keeps us on the right path. If you have ever heard the saying “hardened criminal,” I think of these people as being those that no longer have their guilt radar working. It is a life of doing bad stuff with no feeling of remorse or guilt. The even better news is that we can ask for forgiveness and God forgives us, and we no longer need to feel guilty. According to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify from all unrighteousness.” We are free! So confess the wrongdoing and move on.
The enemy of our souls might try to make us feel guilty after we have already been forgiven by God. That is a trick of his that we don’t have to believe. Once we are forgiven by God, we have to let it go and forgive ourselves too.
Shame is different from guilt in that it is not tied to one specific thing we did wrong. Shame is a nagging sense that something is wrong with me. I feel unaccepted, defective, worthless, and incapable; I am lacking or missing something. It isn’t tied to one incident, but rather who I am. Shame is the feeling that I am always wrong and bad and… you fill in the blank.
I like to think of the cartoon Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown had a friend named “Pig Pen,” who had a cloud of dust around him all the time. Wherever he went, the cloud followed him. That’s how I think of shame; it is the cloud that follows us and hangs over us, something that we can’t shake. Shame is from the enemy. It isn’t truth. It is used to hurt us and kill our human spirit.
It is important to understand the distinction between guilt and shame.
Guilt: I did a bad thing
Shame: I am a bad person
We overcome guilt by asking God to forgive us for the wrong things we’ve done. So how do we overcome shame? We have to identify the shame messages. They usually start with statements like I always and I never. Are they true? Hold up these messages in the light and ask, Is this true? Is this from God? God loves you and wants what is best for you. He will forgive any actions you confess, and he wants to heal any shame messages you are dragging around. So clean up that “Pigpen” of shame, and see who you are through God’s eyes.
In her book called Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer says, “God wants to give us grace, and Satan wants to give us disgrace, which is another word for reproach” (or shame).
How have the messages of shame driven the beliefs you have about yourself? Knowing who you are in God’s eyes can help you to change those beliefs.
Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for me; I am in Christ Jesus”
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “The weapons I fight with are not the weapons of the world, on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. I demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.
Philippians 4:8 “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. I fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Here are a few resources that may help:
Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyers
Released From Shame by Sandra D. Wilson
Power Thoughts Devotional by Joyce Meyers
Kristi L. Andersen is the principal of Kristi L. Financial Partners, LLC (www.KristiLAndersen.com). Securities offered through and Registered Representative of Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Some Advisory services offered through AdvisorNet Financial. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.