Guilt vs Shame

Guilt /ɡilt/ noun is “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.”

Shame /SHām/ noun is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Guilt and shame often go hand in hand as the the same action (or non action) may give rise to feelings of both shame and guilt. The definitions seem very very similar, but where guilt reflects how we feel about ourselves, shame involves an awareness that our actions have injured someone else.

In other words, shame relates to self, guilt to others.

I’ve read a great deal of comments and posts online about how some people feel responsible for causing their cancer and/or others attempting to assign blame. Generally, carrying any guilt or shame or negativity towards yourself about something like cancer can truly weigh anyone down. Since there is no scientific evidence that anyone can actually change the genes within their body with any external source, I would submit that any energy spent in this space is wasted.

The people who attempt to point the finger at others for causing cancer are usually those who feel the most guilt themselves.Turning to patient shaming others is designed to help themselves feel better. I do know that some people obsess about what could have been done differently. Looking back can sometimes help, for instance, to help one avoid repeating a mistake. To look back in an effort to lay blame on anyone or anything is not productive, in my opinion.We can’t go back and change anything in the past.We are who we are today because of what happened in the past. To live in that past or to obsess about the past only takes away from the present.

Today, I rededicate myself to living in the present, to experience life with my family in the present and to light the way for others to do the same.

12 thoughts on “Guilt vs Shame

  1. I often wonder if people who try to shame others for their cancer are just so terrified of the disease that they mistakenly believe that by assigning its cause to someone’s actions they can think it won’t happen to them. Regardless, as you so correctly point out, such actions are pointless. Well said as always.

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  2. This is good and raises some good questions. I’m fit, was healthy, vegetarian and got breast cancer aged 33. I’m Jewish but not Braca1 or 2 – no genetic component. I think I got it as 1. am Bipolar which makes Breast Cancer 2.5 Times more likely; 2. Haven’t had children and 3. Was a Heavy drinker

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    1. So long as it helps you to identify things that could have been done differently, then that’s your choice. I would say that there is a big difference between correlation and causation. Don’t beat yourself up or “should” on yourself. Hindsight is 20/20, but all we can do it move forward. Love and light to you!

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  3. Abigail, I never thought a lot about the difference between guilt and shame. Thank you for this insightful post. I think too many people in our society like to shame those of us who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, like it’s our fault. I agree that it is not productive to focus on that. I love your last sentence. Well-said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! You are so right. I do think this behavior is related to fear and others’ desire to figure out how they are different from those of us with cancer. It’s not fair, but it does sometimes help me have more compassion when I’d really like to spit and scream. Thank you for reading and commenting! Love and light to you. 😘❤️


  4. “ Today, I rededicate myself to living in the present, to experience life with my family in the present and to light the way for others to do the same.” – it does seem we must do this more & more, but maybe that is good too 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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