Does shame=sorrow?

If someone is ashamed of what he/she did…is that the same as being sorry for it? Does shame=sorrow?

Shame is often a facet of pride or vanity.

Sorrow is one expression of contrition for one’s mistake, repentance, a desire to never have offended the All Holy who loves us of eternal love, and to never offend Him again through His grace. Sorrow does not always involve shame, and shame does not always involve sorrow. We may feel ashamed of tracing the Sign of the Cross in a public place before lunch, or of praying the Rosary on a bus. We can feel ashamed of confessing, or of truly confessing all our sins. Iraeneus writes on this topic:

Some … make a public confession, but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing from themselves the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses

But contrition is a requirement for repentance and confession. We can only experience sorrow when we repent of a mistake.

Shame is in fact quite purposeless in our repentance: for what are we ashamed of? Did we not know what sinners we were and how weak we were and of what baseness we are capable of? A very bright person can feel ashamed if he commits a blunt, but a sinner should not be ashamed if he commits a sin - or did he think that he was holy and sinless?

Quoting a masterpiece of Catholic spirituality, Spiritual Combat:

Many also deceive themselves in this way, they mistake the fear and uneasiness which follow after sin for virtuous emotions; and know not that these painful feelings spring from wounded pride, and a presumption which rests upon confidence in themselves and their own strength. They have accounted themselves to be something, and relied unduly upon their own powers. Their fall proves to them the vanity of this self-dependence, and they are immediately troubled and astonished as at some strange thing, and are disheartened at seeing the prop to which they trusted suddenly give way.

This can never befall the humble man, who trusts in his God alone, and in nothing presumes upon himself. Though grieved when he falls into a fault, he is neither surprised nor disquieted; for he knows that his own misery and weakness, already clearly manifest to himself by the light of truth, have brought all this upon him.

The cunning and malicious serpent fails not to tempt us by his artifices even by means of the very virtues we have acquired, that, leading us to regard them and ourselves with complacency, they may become our ruin; exalting us on high, that we may fall into the sin of pride and vainglory.

To preserve yourself from this danger, choose for your battlefield the safe and level ground of a true and deep conviction of your own nothingness

So necessary is self-distrust in this conflict, that without it you will be unable, I say not to achieve the victory desired, but even to overcome the very least of your passions. …] whenever you art overtaken by any fault, to look more deeply into yourself, and more keenly feel your absolute and utter weakness; for to this end did God permit your fall, that, warned by His inspiration and illumined by a clearer light than before, you may come to know yourself, and learn to despise yourself as a thing unutterably vile, and be therefore also willing to be so accounted and despised by others. For without this willingness there can be no holy self-distrust, which is founded on true humility and experimental self-knowledge.

This self-knowledge is clearly needful to all who desire to be united to the Supreme Light … the Divine Clemency often makes use of the fall of proud and presumptuous men to lead to It; justly suffering them to fall into some faults which they trusted to avoid by their own strength, that they may learn to know and absolutely distrust themselves.

Our Lord is not, however, wont to use so severe a method, until those more gracious means …] have failed to work the cure designed by His Divine Mercy. He permits a man to fall more or less deeply in proportion to his pride and self-esteem; so that if there were no presumption (as in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary), there would be no fall.

Shame can cause inhibiting or harmful behavior, in defense of some part of one’s ego; with the outcome being frozen until the shame is resolved. If someone did wrong and is ashamed, shame might help prevent the doing of further wrong. But it can also backfire and create an isolation that leads to more harm done.

Sorrow can cause some lack of self-care, which could be harmful, but usually sorrow implies a surrender to fighting grief, which is a humility. And humility always bears good fruit. Avoiding sorrow tends to complicate grief and create more problems.

Add faith in God to either sorrow or shame and both become a strong step toward healing.

Monsignor Owen Campion teaches that sorrow is “pain in the mind”
Shame may be mere embarrassment, while sorrow must go far deeper than that.
If a guest takes a wrong turn into your bathroom as you step out of the shower, it is embarrassing, but you feel no sorrow. The one causing the offense will feel the sorrow, since they were in the wrong, even if by simple carelessness. Embarrassment can attach to things that are not sinful, while sorrow should attach to sin.

I think guilt has more in common with sorrow than does shame. In psychology, there’s a very noticeable difference between guilt and shame, with shame leading to other psychological problems, and guilt being a healthy alternative to shame.

In JP2’s Theology of the Body, if you keyword “shame,” it is not just something bad, but a voice of conscience so to speak. It can help keep us on track. For if we are ashamed of a sin, then we properly recognize it as something bad. If we are ashamed of our bodies, then we have a distorted view of the body’s value.

We must beware of the English translation :o In Italian, “vergogna” can mean “shame” but also “embarassment”, as well as other things. English, not being a Romance language, has only so many words that can be used to try to render the original idea :shrug: But that’s quite interesting that you mention Theology of the Body. It’s truly a worthy topic to learn more about :slight_smile:

As I understand, the newer translation by Waldstein improved upon the original by L’Osservatore Romano, and I believe some consultation with Italian theologians took place in grappling with words that did not translate perfectly, so hopefully they may have weeded any inaccuracies from the text.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit