Many people have a hard time knowing the difference between guilt and shame.
Simplified, it goes something like this-- guilt causes people to act in a moral way after having done something or someone wrong; whereas shame makes people feel bad about themselves in some way.
According to Brene Brown,
"I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection."
And it's no laughing matter. People that are shamed can have severe damage mentally and emotionally; even to the point of having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I can personally attest to that.
When I was about four years old, a then family member told me to go outside and that I was going to help him bleed his brakes on his car. If you have ever seen me in person as an adult now; I am just about five feet tall. Now just imagine my height at four years old.
I climbed into the driver's seat while he was behind me yelling at me on what I needed to do. Not only could I not hear him, I was too small to reach the brake. This infuriated him, and he yelled all kinds of obscenities at me. I was then told by him, that I was stupid and couldn't do anything right. He continued yelling at me until he told me to go back into the house. He said that I was useless and would never amount to anything. That did so much damage to me.
I walked around for years thinking the very things he said about me was true, because he was an adult after all. I thought that he obviously knew more about life than I did, since I was just four years old. When I got older, I remember reading every self help book that I could get my hands on, to find out what was "wrong" with me. After all, I had heard that message about myself as long as I could remember by several people in my life.
Being around certain people in my family made me feel bad about myself a lot. People that were hyper critical, yelled and raged a lot, and people who were alcoholics and addicts scared me to death. It was not until I discovered ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunction) did I have my "ah ha moment." I had walked around feeling like a failure, unloved, and definitely disconnected from other people. My early and consistent wounds made sure of that!
One day I was in an online meeting, a person that was sharing in the meeting said something that I will never forget. She said, "What did you make that experience mean about you?"
When looking back at that experience when I was four years old; it made me feel like I was ignorant, incapable, definitely unloved, and the fear and anxiety of his bullying stayed trapped inside of my body from my early childhood days, to most of my adult life. I had walked around with a gaping wound of shame that bled all over everyone and every where I had been most of my life. You wouldn't have known it though because I concealed it behind a very happy smile and cheerful attitude most of the time.
It also made me become "psychic." I learned to tune in to some of these dangerous people that I grew up around so I would no longer be the target of their wrath. Several layers of my bodies that surrounded my physical body were eventually stripped away through living around abusive people for so long. I carried a lot of shame and grief inside of me, but I vowed to never treat other people the way that I was treated by several of my family members, ex husbands, and some unhealthy friendships, and co workers that had been in my life.
We do after all drag the same situations in different relationships that we have, until we heal. In order to have a happy and healthy life in the future, we have to heal ourselves daily. Otherwise we keep meeting the same set of circumstances in different faces until we do.
That's why I have continued to support various organizations that promote healthy relationships within ourselves, and others; like CODA, ACA, Breathe, Chant, and Meditate, and Emotions Anonymous.
It is not shameful to belong to a group that helps you be a better version of yourself and to not carry dysfunction down another spiralling family line. It's a shame to continue to carry your shame and promote it; or to continue another year with it within yourself, and then to another generation that comes after you.
Which is why forgiveness and grace are so important on your spiritual journey. Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves for putting up with so much abuse, especially when we are older and can do something about it.