This piece by The Correspondent on two of the emotions that might well be paramount to being human – guilt and shame – makes for a great long weekend read: https://thecorrespondent.com/73/can-guilt-and-shame-ever-be-positive/978340671-863dd837.

Neither guilt, nor shame is a positive emotion of course; none of us goes along their days dreaming of being guilty or ashamed. But while both of these are very painful experiences, only one of them can actually help us become better humans, for although closely related they are quite distinct in their origin and impact.

Guilt is more like an internal compass pinpointing what we think did wrong; it is usually also very specific and we can identify the exact action that makes us feel guilty. Not so with shame, which is much more outwardly focused and reflects how we are in relation to our referent group. And because we are quick to judge, shame is not so much about a specific action, as about our selves.

I strongly suspect that this subtle difference is why bulling for example is so bad. Instead of pointing to things that we can actually work on, it lumps our whole selves into an indiscriminate mass of failure and rejection, leaving us ostracized and helpless.


Guilt: I made a mistake. Shame: I am a mistake.


Read on to understand more about guilt and shame and how they relate to our propensity to commit crime, to depression, and to self-improvement: https://thecorrespondent.com/73/can-guilt-and-shame-ever-be-positive/978340671-863dd837.

My best wishes for a great day ahead!

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