Put simply, guilt is knowing what what we did was bad...shame is when we believe we are bad because what we did was bad. Shame is sick. Shame is "I'm not good enough" (repeated over and over in our hearts and minds). Shame is a cancer that feeds on the rich, joyful, and healthy parts of us to grow and sustain itself. As Brene Brown says, "we all have it, and the less we talk about it, the more of it we have."
Shame destroys connection, and here's one reason how.
Like I said, at its core, shame is the belief that one isn't good enough. Shame is strong in many christian cultures, because the behavioral outward features the religion requires can create a sense of failure when one fails to execute these standards in a consistent and often perfect way. Once I mess up in and/or with these standards over and over, the message that is so powerfully conveyed is that of "you aren't good enough," "stop trying," "I'm pathetic," and many more. All centered in shame. It's not just church, but sports, school, music, and many others "achievement" based activities.
These failures add up quickly to create a debt...a debt shame requires nobody ever sees, helps carry, or even takes away. It's a personal debt, a debt that I need to punish myself for. A debt I need to keep secret and tucked deeply in the dark corners of my soul. Often, in adults and teenagers, these dark corners become so jammed packed that outward chaos ensues. I often call that chaos depression and anxiety.
So here's why it destroys connection. My dark corners are filled with junk that I don't want anyone to see or even sense, so what do I do?...I hide...I disconnect...I don't allow myself to be vulnerable or seek connection too deeply. Why? If I connect, people will see my disgusting self. They will see how bad I really am and reject me. They will know the truth about how 'not good enough' I really am.
Related to this destruction of connection is the idea that the only way I can pay for my 'debts' is through the denial of that which would suggest I didn't have debt. That "thing" that tells us we are free of debt and good enough is love. For me, it is Christ's love and the love others give me because I'm just me...in all my weakness and strength. So if we aren't careful, love and joy become the currency to pay for the shame that exists.
As one can see, this equation of happiness is insane. It truly is an endless loop that never leads to real happiness. The only way it could, is if we were perfect, and we know that ain't happening any time soon.