We live in a fallen world. The enemy would love nothing more than us to become overwhelmed with guilt and shame to the point of simply throwing our hands up in the air and just saying, “ I give up! This is just who I am!” The result of such overwhelming weight on the human soul? Stress and anxiety and further burdening of the soul with burdens we were never intended to bear. Guilt and shame are such burdens. Their distinctions are helpful in understanding how to deal practically with both, while the answer to both is really quite simple and quite the same. The Answer is Jesus. He alone is the only one who could ever possibly bear the fullness of the burdens of guilt and shame!

What is the clinical definition of guilt and shame and what are their distinct differences? In the world of psychology, the differentiation between guilt and shame are based on the object of one’s focus. In guilt, the self is not the central object of negative evaluation, but rather the thing done is the focus. Similarly, authors, Merle Fossum and Marilyn Mason say in their book Facing Shame that "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person.”

To help explain the difference between guilt and shame, I’d like to share the story behind my song Redeemer. This song came as I prepared for an Inner Healing Conference in June of 2013. Many factors came together to bring this song about, once again revealing the depth of God’s ability to help us hear and His ability to help me write down what will help us cry out to Him. I think a lot about shame and about how much God has delivered me from said shame. Because I hear so many stories from others in bondage to shame, I want to help people understand how Christ overcame shame for us...but to do that we must understand the difference between guilt and shame.

As I took part in a conference in Texas earlier that same year where Lisa Harper was one of the keynote speakers, she gave a wonderful definition and distinction of the two:

“Guilt is the realization that I have done something wrong. Shame is the belief that I am something wrong.”

If the enemy can get us focused on ourselves and to believe we are abject losers in every way - that we are of no worth simply for who we are - he has us completely enslaved to the bondage of constant feelings of failure and worthlessness and enslaved to the stress and anxiety that come with such bondage! The root of the very word, shame,  is thought to come from a word meaning ‘to cover oneself’ much as Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves after their eyes were opened to the realities of sin. How do we help cover the hurt shame brings into the lives of those who are burdened with it? Let me finish the story behind my song, Redeemer.

On the Wednesday the week before our healing conference, Melinda had asked our home church to pray over her - that during this conference she would be less like Martha and more like Mary. So we did.

The following Tuesday, she walked out the back door to shoo away a stray dog and slipped on the wood that had been moistened by the humid heat of the day...and promptly broke her leg, forcing her to miss the entire conference due to a five-day stint in the hospital.

My wife is servant. A go-getter. One of those if there’s not a way I can make a way, I can figure it out kind of women...much like we imagine the Martha of the New Testament. Little did she know of just how uniquely and specifically God was about to answer her prayer.

For the next few weeks, Melinda was forced to suffer the pain of a broken leg, the shame of not being able to fulfill her duties at the conference, and to her, the dilemma of having to be the one who was being served. Twice-broken. Broken by the guilt she felt at not feeling well enough to fulfill her obligations and broken by the shame of inadequacy the enemy tried to heap on her. But she had prayed that God would help her be more like Mary…the one who sat at the feet of Jesus and simply enjoyed His presence. We all knew God was up to something...and that He had just thrown us a great big curve ball.

As the Holy Spirit had directed me to invite my daughter-in-law, to speak at the conference, she told me she would like to talk about suffering in one session…and shame in another! I knew God was up to something when I heard her heart’s desire.

My daughter-in-law’s suffering came as the result of losing two children to miscarriage. Imagine dreaming of being a mother and finally becoming pregnant only to lose that child a few weeks into the pregnancy - and then to have it happen all over again a year later. She had many questions for God and was definitely broken-hearted twice.

But where did her shame come from? The same loss. The same pain. The feeling of being inadequate - not able to carry a child - less than...that somehow SHE was the something wrong,

Her conclusion? Christ dealt with both her suffering and with her shame as He bore them on the cross. Out of suffering, God brought forth healing and beauty. Out of her shame, God brought cleansing and acceptance and peace in spite of all she had gone through.

The week of the conference, I gathered the entire team together to pray at my house. After the prayer time, a friend, Dean Briggs told me the Lord had given him something for me to meditate on. He said to think on these words:

Broken once.
Broken no more.
I am the one You were broken for.

I could not stop thinking about those words - even through the night. Waking up the next morning and going to visit my wife in the hospital, I found myself thinking about those words all day long…and then began to think about them in relation to how Father has dealt with my own shame from my past failures.

Wednesday evenings Melinda and I host a home church group for worship and ministry. As I went to my studio to prepare for that time, the Lord began to pour out this song. I received the first verse and chorus ten minutes before we began and introduced the song that night. We knew it was special in that moment. Verse two came the next day - the first day of the conference. The Answer o both guilt and shame are fond in the release of both to the only One meant to bear them…to the only One Who was able to redeem them...the only One Who could absolve our guilt and the Only One Who could cover our shame!

How do we deal with guilt? We honestly confess our sin to Jesus, receive His forgiveness, and move on.

How do we deal with shame? We confess our perceived inadequacies to Jesus as the lies they are, we replace those lies with the truth of who Father God says we are, allowing Him to be our covering - and we move on down the road.

Let Him meet you in the midst of whatever it is you are going through today. He is in it and He can use it...whatever it is. He is Redeemer of the big things and redeemer of the small things. He is redeemer of all.

May this song bring you and your sorrow and your suffering and your shame right to the feet of Jesus…
Dennis Jernigan

The song, Redeemer, is available for purchase and download at https://dennisjernigan.com/store/product.php?c=24&p=3904


Broken once
Broken no more
I am the one You were broken for
Broken body
Blood flowing down
Once lost but now I’m found

Bread of Life
Broken for me
Broken to fill me, make me complete
Living Water
Love’s cleansing Stream
Washed me, left me redeemed

My Redeemer!
With redeeming love flood my soul!
Gave Your life, Redeemer!
Broken to make me whole!
Broken to make me whole!

Once in shame
Shameful no more
I am the one that You bore shame for
Once unworthy, I realize
Still I was worth Your life

Crown of thorns
Piercing Your brow
Ancient of Days somehow here and now
Wounded Healer
Cleanser of sin
Savior Who rose a-gain!

My Redeemer!
With redeeming love flood my soul!
Gave Your life, Redeemer!
Broken to make me whole!
Broken to make me whole!

Dennis Jernigan
June 19, 2013
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