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The Distinction – Part I

The Wisdom of a Tree


Life is complicated but there are times when a simple shift in our understanding brings clarity. Something as small as a minute detail can open up pathways in our brain that create an entirely different outlook. This was the case for me on February 22, 2013, the day to which I fondly refer as my own Independence Day. My therapist was explaining the meaning of shame and how it ruled my life. That day, the light came on and everything after that changed.

One of the first things I discuss with my clients is the distinction between shame and guilt. It is vital in our own healing and growth. While many want to define the two with similar meanings they are quite different. Because we process them physically and emotionally similarly, that may be why we tend to give them the same meaning. However, they are quite different.

How would you define each word and what is your distinction between the two? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and we’ll discuss the answers in “Part II”. Meanwhile, please enjoy this poem that I wrote a few weeks before my Independence Day. Yes, the picture is the tree which inspired the poem. I look forward to your comments.

I took a glance at this lonely tree

And when I looked closely, what did I see?

Its bark had withered, its branches the same

But it still grew tall because it had no shame.

What did it do to be shameful about?

It caused no harm no created any doubt?

Its purpose in lie was clearly to be

Simply one thing; a beautiful tree.

It stood there proudly on the cold mountain top

Without ever wondering if it would ever stop

For how long it was there I had no way to know

And how much longer it would continue to grow

As long as it had purpose in life to be………

And I felt at that moment, the same as the tree.

There’s no reason at all to continue with shame

I wasn’t born in this world with doubt or blame.

Somewhere in my journey I learned how to add

Blame, guilt, and thoughts that I was bad.

After these long years of blame and self-doubt

Now is the time to realize i can live without

All of the notions I’m not worthy enough

Which hinder my way and make my journey tough

So the time is now to look at myself plainly

And realize I’m worthy to live life more sanely

Get out from the past move forward right now

Put away all blame with a solemn vow

I choose from this day that when I do have a choice

I will take the step and speak with stern voice

And not let others or circumstances provide

The answers to life which I will now decide.

When guilt or shame tries to rear its ugly head

I will dismiss it quite firmly as though it were dead.

I am worthy of great things to come

And will gladly accept wherever they’re from.

What life has to give me and what’s still in store

I am now worthy and open for more.

……And for the last time I gaze at that tree

Wondering now what life has for me.

With a tear in my eye and a big smile on my face

I will live to my fullest touched by the tree’s grace.

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