Shame and Regret
Shame and Regret: Why Do We Feel This Way?
The feelings of shame and regret can be agonizing and destructive. Shame is an emotion that originates in fear, particularly fear of how others view us. It is a feeling that can be conquered. Regret is a feeling of sorrow and may prompt apologies. Either can become a game of “what ifs”—what if I hadn’t…, what if I had only…, what if I had just…
What is shame? What is regret?
Shame: A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Regret: A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.
It seems to be our nature to carry useless baggage from past mistakes, bad decisions, and their consequences. Let’s face it, there are also people in our lives who tend to enjoy heaping guilt, regret, and shame on us. People will often disapprove of our decisions, beat us up with guilt over our mistakes, or let us know we do not live up to their expectations. It is important to surround ourselves with positive, encouraging, and supportive people.1
Shame and regret can be very self-defeating. In an odd way, these emotions create a viscous cycle that only make things worse. For example, if an alcoholic drinks, he may feel bad for the pain it causes his family. To alleviate the pain of his shame and regret, he drinks more. The cycle continues.
How do we break the cycle? We need to forgive ourselves of whatever brought on the shame and regrets and to not take on the raw indictments made by others. It’s often more difficult to forgive ourselves than to forgive others. So how do we rid ourselves of the persistent feelings of shame and regret?
Shame And Regret: What Does The Bible Say?
Shame and regret are addressed in several verses in the Bible. Perhaps one of the most notable is found in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Once a person accepts Jesus as Savior, God does not condemn us for any past sins; they are forgotten and forgiven forever.2 Jesus Christ has paid the debt for us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 also addresses the emotion of regret. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” God provides the way to reconciliation with Himself because no matter what our past mistakes, or the most horrible of sins we have committed, He is a forgiving God who loves us and wants us to love Him. This provision was given by Jesus’ death and His resurrection.
Repentance brings about God’s forgiveness by grace (God’s gift of divine favor). He makes us a new person, a new creation.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20
Shame and Regret: No Need To Struggle
Shame and regret can be huge motivators in society. They are useful in setting the parameters for socially acceptable behaviors and to deter destruction of a common way of life. In other words, using these emotions on an individual, group, or culture can be useful in disgracing one into proper behaviors. Although they are often used, they should not be necessary.
Some religions and cults are also guilty of this ploy. Religious leaders use it on their members to manipulate behavior. Members use shame and regret on each other. They inflict a “judgment” of sorts on each other with a “your sin is worse than my sin” attitude. This sets the inner circle acceptance or rejection of another. Doctrines are sometimes used to instill regrets or fears about acceptance into God’s Kingdom.
This is not God’s way! God wants us to know that we are loved, forgiven, and wholly accepted by Him. The story of Peter is a good example of this. Though he denied Jesus three times, he was forgiven and highly instrumental as one of the founding fathers of the Christian church.
God wants us to know that no matter how broken or sinful we have been, He can heal us and change us into a new person with no shame and no regret.
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