What is the Difference Between Guilt and Shame?

Bible Summary. Guilt is godly sorrow that results in repentance and ultimately salvation. Shame on the other hand is where you may feel bad because it is not socially accepted or someone you respected has found you “wrong”. Cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict says, shame is a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one’s internal values. Thus, it is possible to feel ashamed of thought or behavior that no one knows about and to feel guilty about actions that gain the approval of others.

Guilt – The Law Written in Your Heart

The Law Written in Their Hearts



The dictionary definition of guilt is “The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense. The fact of having been found to have violated a criminal law; legal culpability. Responsibility for a mistake or error. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.” In everyday use, there is not much difference between the definition of guilt and shame. From a Christian perspective there are major differences between guilt and shame. Feelings of guilt will change someone’s heart and lead them to repentance and reconciliation with God. Feelings of shame do not change the heart. Shame is just something to avoid or just suffer through until it passes. See below for Biblical commentary and scriptures concerning the difference between guilt and shame.

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame.

Guilt is godly sorrow that results in repentance and ultimately salvation. Shame by itself is not godly sorrow. Shame is where you may feel bad because it is not socially accepted or someone you respected has found you “wrong”. 2nd Corinthians 7:10 advise us that guilt will lead to repentance and God’s salvation versus shame leads to nothing but more shame and eventually death.

2nd Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

Cain Showed Shame But No Guilt.

God was displeased with Cain’s unworthy offering and Cain felt shame, but no guilt. Cain just felt shame. He was sorry about the unworthy offering, but in his heart he had only anger and pain. Genesis 4:5 tells us of God’s displeasure and of Cain’s anger and shame.

Genesis 4:5, “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect, And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”

Spread the Gospel Not to Shame People, But to Make them Aware of Their Guilt.

Judging and shaming people is not what Christians are to do. As Christians, we are to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to bring hope and truth to people. If the hearers of the gospel truly hear, they will acknowledge their sin (guilt) within their own heart and repent to become followers of Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians in 1st Corinthians 4:14 that he is not trying to shame them in his letters, but to warn them.

1st Corinthians 4:14, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”