Sep 29, 2018 386 0 Doctor Peter C. Kleponis

Overcoming Guilt and Shame in Recovery

Two primary factors that keep people from seeking help for pornography addiction are guilt and shame. While they often act together, they are two very different emotions. Guilt focuses on the behavior while shame focuses on the person. Both need to be resolved for a healthy recovery.


Guilt is an emotion that focuses on actions. It is the emotion that says, “Okay, you’ve done something wrong and now you have to correct it, fix it, or clean it up.” As uncomfortable as this emotion may be, it is actually very healthy. It requires a person to take responsibility for his actions and atone for them. To do this, one must embrace the virtues of honesty, humility, responsibility, courage, faith, hope, and love. Taking responsibility for one’s addiction and recovery can be very healing for individuals and for relationships. It shows that you understand how wrong your actions were and that you are taking positive steps to end your pornography use. This resolves your guilt and can reunite you with loved ones. The same effect happens in our relationship with God. When we sin, it damages our relationship with God. Here is where God uses guilt to bring us back to Him. To be reconciled with God, we must admit our sins, take responsibility for them and confess them. In many cases our penance can be to make amends for our sins. By confessing your sexual sins and doing penance, you resolve your guilt and are reunited with God.

Addressing guilt is also an important part of the twelve steps of recovery. Steps four through ten state that we:

4. made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves;
5. admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs;
6. were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character;
7. humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings;
8. made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all;
9. made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others; and
10. continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

While it can be difficult to take responsibility for an addiction, doing so actually strengthens a person. It takes the addiction out of the darkness and brings it into the light. This can diminish much of its power over you. While some people may be hurt and angry with you for a while, most will forgive. In the end they will respect you for admitting your guilt and resolving it.

Guilt can help you address your addiction while still affirming your value as a person and as a child of God.


Shame is the emotion that focuses on the person. It is the emotion that says, “You did something wrong and because of it you are a bad person. You need to hide so that no one will ever know how bad you really are.” This is not of God.

Ultimately, this is a tool of satan to keep a person trapped in his addiction. It fuels the five faulty core beliefs by which many addicted people live:

1. I am unworthy of being loved.
2. If people really knew me, they would reject me.
3. I cannot count on anyone, including God, to meet my needs.
4. I must find something I can control that will meet my needs.
5. Pornography/sex is my greatest need and source of comfort.

Shame can result from sinful acts you have committed, such as viewing pornography. It can also develop out of sinful acts committed against you. For example, a person who was abused as a child might feel responsible for it and develop a deep sense of shame as a result. Both sources of shame can lead a person into addiction.

Regardless of where your shame came from, it is important to know that your worth as a person is not determined by your actions or the actions of others.

When God created you He instilled in you an infinite worth that no one can diminish. It does not matter what kinds of sexual sins you have committed or how often you have committed them, you are still a good person. There is no need to hide. God still loves you. He is always ready to take you back and cleanse you from your sin.

As you take responsibility for your addiction, you will find many people who still love you regardless of what you have done. Letting go of shame can be very difficult for many addicted people. If shame is a major stumbling block for you, I recommend you consult with a therapist and/or a priest. They can help you let go of your shame and bring your addiction out into the light so that you can overcome it!


It is important for all people who are addicted to pornography to understand that you are not defined by your addiction. Guilt and shame are proof of that! Guilt focuses on the action, not the person.

By addressing your guilt and making amends you actually strengthen your ability to recover from your addiction. Others will also respect you for your work in recovery. Shame is not of God and thus does not define who you are.

No matter what your addiction has led you to do, God still sees you as His beloved child. This is how you also need to view yourself!

Doctor Peter C. Kleponis

is a licensed clinical therapist and assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He holds a master’s in clinical-counseling psychology and a doctorate in general psychology. Dr. Kleponis has more than eighteen years of professional experience working with individuals, couples, families and organizations. He specializes in marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling and pornography/sexual addiction recovery. Dr. Kleponis has been a guest on several EWTN television programs. He is the author of two books, “The Pornography Epidemic: A Catholic Approach” (2012) and “Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography” (2014). Dr. Kleponis is also founder of the Integrity Starts Here Catholic recovery program for pornography and sexual addiction. He works with individuals and couples from around the United States and internationally in person, by phone and via Skype. For more information, visit his website, www.PeterKleponis.com. Reprinted with permission from www.IntegrityRestored.com.


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