Guilt and Shame- Telling Them Apart

Feelings of Shame and GuiltOften feeling of guilt and shame can become a driving force in our life. This is particularly true for women who have had abortions. We can be often confused and misunderstanding about these two feelings, or even unaware that some of our actions are actually only reactions to either of these feelings. One of the steps that may help a woman that have had an abortion, is to tell these two apart by putting them in a proper prospective.


While guilt is not something you should live with your entire life, it can be a beneficial force in changing our lives. In any one’s life there were moments when we felt guilty about our actions. Why do we feel guilt then? We generally fee guilty when we are tormented by a memory of certain act that did not corresponded with our moral principles or set of values, we say “I have made a mistake”. Any one can make a mistake and all of us quite often taste the consequences of our mistakes. But if we make a mistake, it does not mean that we have lost our value as human being. A mistake does not affect our dignity, with which we were endowed from conception. Normal feelings of guilt call us to correct the mistake we made, make up for it and reconcile with ourselves and others. When we do this, the feeling of guilt does not persecute us and we cab find peace again.


Unlike the feeling of guilt that emerges within us and may assume a beneficial role in our life, shame comes from outside. Feeling of shame is provoked by others and it becomes and obstacle in respecting ourselves. There are at least two major causes of shame.

  • First, shame emerges when parents, teachers, siblings or friends make us understand that they can only love us if we live up to certain conditions. In this case we feel that love for us (or/and lack of such) depends on our behavior, our looks, our success. This love is conditional, love that we need to work for. So when we do not feel loved, we think that we simple did not deserve to be loved.
  • Second, shame can be provoked by rude treatment of any kind: physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal. Those who treat others with rudeness make the victim believe that he or she deserves it.

No matter what it was caused by, shame can hurt us for many years and may become a “nourishment” for the opinions that we have about ourselves. Under the influence of conditional love or rude and abusive treatment, a person, consciously or not, assimilates a certain “disordered pack” of ideas about their own personality.  You may find many women say about themselves: “There is nothing good in me”, “I am stupid”, “It’s my own fault that I became pregnant”, “I need to hide this for the rest of my life”, “I am not worthy (or capable) to be a mother”, “I am not worthy to have normal relations with a man”, “I had one abortion already, why shouldn’t I have one more?”, “I need to punish myself or let other people treat me badly because I don’t deserve anything else.”

While feeling of guilt can be corrected, in some instances rather quickly, by asking forgiveness for our mistakes, feeling of shame can only be healed by love and truth and may require much longer time.

In freeing yourself from the power of shame, a woman needs to remember that who she is, is not defined by actions or opinions of other people. No matter how many mistakes she personally made, she a is a human being that deserves love and respect for her dignity. Since feeling of shame may have it’s roots in very early childhood or due to rude and abusive treatments, this woman may need strong reassurance from friends and family, that no matter how bad her mistakes were she is loved unconditionally.

One Comment

  1. Rubab September 30, 2007