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The Difference Between Guilt and Shame

The difference between guilt and shame and how they are related to each other is an interesting topic.

Following is a guest article by Paul Harnett. Paul is well-versed in the meanings of original Hebrew words and has agreed to share some of his knowledge on this site.

The feeling of shame is something none of us likes to experience. It is related, of course, to guilt. Read Paul's article to better understand the difference between guilt and shame and to see how they are derived from the Hebrew words.

To understand how this is all related to forgiveness, see my study on Biblical Forgiveness which shows from the Bible that God forgives every sin unconditionally. The only conditional part is us receiving it.

Go to my study on the Lake of Fire to see how guilt and shame play out in the final judgment.

Also, read of Jacob's experience with guilt and shame and the following pages that show how he was changed and was able to overcome those feelings.

Watch for more guest articles by Paul.

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame
by Paul Harnett

Shame is a condition, or a result of an existing (on-going) cause. Remove the cause ... and you'll remove its effect,

Guilt is the Cause of Shame
Here we are not so much interested in what shame is, but rather what it does. What is the function of shame? Why did God (in His wisdom) give man the capacity to experience the emotion of shame?

Shame is rooted in guilt. The Hebrew word for guilt is "asham" - which is where we get the English word "ashamed." The guilt offering of Leviticus chapter 5 is known as the "asham." Here we can see the concept of and relationship between guilt and shame.

Let's look at the word for shame in Hebrew. It is Asham:

hebrew word for shame

Now let's begin with the root of the word: Aysh = fire:

hebrew word for fire

The word picture of these two letters- reading from right to left - aleph ( hebrew letter aleph ) and shin ( hebrew letter shin ) - is that of something which is strong, and devours. This is fire.

One aspect of the Hebrew letter "mem" ( hebrew letter mem ) is chaos or turbulence rising. Another aspect is that of blood. When someone is ashamed, they feel flushed, as if they are "burning up." In fact, it is the consciousness of guilt they feel at that moment as the blood rises in the face. This is a certain give away, as understood in the expression "shame-faced." One who is ashamed, is experiencing the "fire of chaos" within.

To be shamed by another is a different matter. Likewise is the notion of perceived shame, which is rooted in fear. It is a projection of fear within.

God is Our Peace
Where there is chaos, there is no peace. Where there is peace, there is no chaos. From a different perspective, the opposite holds true for both ideas as well. But that is not the course of our discussion here.

Another name for the "Asham / guilt" offering was the "trespass offering."

What was God's purpose for this guilt offering? It was to reveal a need in our life and to provide a means to temporarily atone for a trespass or transgression. It was to cleanse our conscience in order to restore us to right relationship with Him.

Hence - we reveal that He is our peace. In this, we sanctify His name.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

Thank you, Paul, for that interesting article, The Difference Between Guilt and Shame. Paul Harnett will be sharing more Hebrew word studies - watch for them.

I have a related page in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone series that looks at how the extreme feelings of shame the lost will have at the judgment will factor into what they go through in the lake of fire experience.

 
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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
God always forgives!
   

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