How to Differentiate Conviction from Shame



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I’ll be honest.

Sometimes when I mess up I have a hard time getting past it. Like many people, I can beat myself up or keep focusing on what could have happened differently rather than worrying about what needs to happen now.

Thankfully, this is not a regular occurrence as I’ve learned a lot about myself and the realities of shame and regret.

But yea, it can still happen.

And what is really challenging is trying to separate the healthy conviction I may feel from unhealthy shame. The truth is, on the surface, those two things can seem similar but the reality is there is a world of difference between the two.

Conviction simply put is a feeling that arises because of our own values and beliefs.

In other words, when we’ve done something that violates our core principles we feel the need to make things right.

Conviction, when allowed to serve its purpose, can lead to repentance and restoration. It is decidedly a good thing and redemptive by nature.

Shame, however, is a completely different animal.

Shame is not about what you did, or what you said, or what you thought. 

It’s about who you are.

It takes the spotlight off your poor decisions and puts it on you. Shame lies to you and says, “If people knew what you did they would never understand, and reject you like the worthless piece of crap you are.”  

Shame attacks your very nature and identity.

So how can you know the difference when you feel bad about your choices? 


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Ask yourself if the problem and solution are internal or external.

Here’s what I mean…

Conviction comes from knowing that what you did (external) has hurt someone else and since that rubs against your values and principles, you feel the need to make things right (external).

Shame stems from the terrible feeling that because you did something harmful to someone else, it points to or confirms the fact that there is something wrong with you (internal). And often, rather than feeling the need to make things right, you would rather hide or withdraw, so you can protect others from the monster inside you (internal).

Now, understand that generally we do terrible things to people because we have damage of our own. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”

And yes, that’s an internal issue.

But there is a difference between recognizing you have pain and damage that needs to be healed and worked through versus buying into toxic self condemnation and shame that leaves you feeling helpless and out of options.

You looked at porn again.
That sucks.

And yes, the reason you turned to porn is internal. Namely the emotional damage you’ve been carrying around probably for years.

But reclining in your shame is not the answer.

Because you are not the problem.

The action was the problem.
The damage you carry around is the problem.
The seeking out unwanted sexual behaviors to cope with life’s challenges is the problem.

But you? 

You are good because God says as much.
You have value because God declares it so.
You have purpose because God has given you so
You are forgiven because God paid the price.

Don’t confuse shame with conviction. They are nothing alike and will lead you towards two very different conclusions.

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