There are obvious reasons why fear, guilt and shame have a bad reputation inside and outside the Church. There is really no need to illustrate this point, but…
Fear of judgment, rejection or punishment can be crippling.
Guilt that is exaggerated, overly-negative or simply mistaken is paralyzing.
Shame, too, when it is insulting, degrading and merciless, can be dehumanizing.
But that’s just simply not all there is to Fear, Guilt and Shame. They can be not only unavoidable feelings that one will eventually encounter in life, but even helpful and self-protective tools to help us grow.
Fear can be protective. It can keep us from doing things that we know will harm others or ourselves. The opposite of this protective fear is selfish carelessness.
Guilt can be honest. It can reflect the willingness to admit we have done wrong and the need to set things right. The opposite of this honest guilt is the excusing or hiding sin.
Shame can be empathetic. It can connect our logical awareness of wrong-doing to a heart-level grief that together can motivate (through God’s grace) our work to amend our ways and undo the harm done as much as possible. The opposite of this empathetic shame is a calloused, arrogant or narcissistic heart.