Guilt vs. Shame
If one third of American women have experienced abortion, why is it that you rarely hear anyone confess to this choice? Abortion is typically cloaked in secrecy. Post-abortive silence speaks volumes about the post-abortive shame that is often associated with this choice.
In working with tens of thousands of post-abortive individuals, our team finds it is often difficult for these hearts to resolve the issue of their post-abortive shame in having participated in abortion. Triggers like the birth of a subsequent child, learning the details of fetal development, losing another child through miscarriage, or a future understanding that they actually took part in the loss of their own child through abortion can intensify post-abortive shame.
Even if hearts were coerced or harassed into the abortion, many come to the point of recognition that they should have fought harder not to have the abortion. It doesn’t matter if these conclusions are accurate or not. Post-abortion emotions can be complicated to understand.
To address this emotional pain, it’s important to distinguish the difference between the emotions of guilt and shame:
Guilt involves the realization that one has violated the law or the rights of another person and/or God.
Shame is remorseful consciousness of guilt that makes a person feel disgraced or dishonored.
While guilt tells us we made a mistake, shame wants to tell us we are a mistake.
Post-abortive shame often produces thoughts of worthlessness. Many often believe they are unworthy of love at any level. This emotion can often lead to suicidal tendencies.
Post-abortive shame states that nobody can help us. Unhealthy shame is often called “the sorrow of the world.” It can be a major enemy in the effort to healing, especially if it binds us to maintaining secrets.
Many individuals can be stunted in their spiritual growth because they expend great energy to ensure, “No one will ever know about my abortion. It will always remain a secret.”
Abortion disgrace can initiate great fear of parents, spouses, children, or friends discovering an abortion secret. Even when loved ones show OBVIOUS compassion towards other post-abortive people, it can be hard for the post-abortive to believe they even deserve to be accepted and forgiven for this choice.
Self-destructive behaviors can surround the post-abortive shame emotion. Women who endure physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of others often believe they “deserve the abuse” for their abortion action. Many will embrace physical abuse by others because they believe they deserve to be punished!
Even in professional counseling situations, rarely does an intake form include the question, “How many abortions have you experienced?” While we may not answer truthfully, simply asking us the question can expose to our hearts that our abortion could be the root of our pain.
Pro-abortion messages often insist that post-abortive shame only impacts those who have a faith background that condemns abortion. However, even in Japan, with less than 3% of a Christian population, post-abortive women have memorials to their aborted babies in Shinto shrines.
Clearly, post-abortion shame and guilt impacts more than just those who have a faith in God! While God’s hand of conviction may bring the truth of the loss of a child to a clearer level, there is no proof that only Christian women suffer from the emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical consequences of abortion.
Shame can be deeper for those who chose abortion multiple times. These women often believe they are much worse than anyone else. Shame can be complicated when someone remembers one abortion more vividly than another as well.
God’s word is clear when it comes to the emotions of shame, as outlined in Isaiah 61:7 NIV – Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
Record in your journal any thoughts that you may have had in the past that include shame and guilt. Then spend some time in prayer and ask God to help heal this pain.
Within the one third of American society that has experienced abortion is a beautiful network of abortion recovery leaders who can identify and understand each post-abortive emotion. Your secrets can find a safe home with our team. Feel free to contact us if we can help you in any way!