Shame. Such a powerful word and such a dangerous tool if used to hurt oneself or others. When used wrongly or misunderstood, shame blocks us from living life fully.

Nowadays, people have rejected all shame as bad. It’s almost like a counter-revolution. But not all shame is bad. Healthy shame is quite wonderful because when used properly, its vulnerability and humility can lead to closeness. This is the shame that comes from taking accountability for causing harm—either knowingly or unknowingly—to another person with your words or actions. It’s the shame of disconnection.

One of the first emotions mentioned in the Torah,Healthy shame is quite wonderful the Blueprint of Life, is shame. Adam disconnected himself from his loving Source of Life by doing something that G‑d explicitly asked him not to do. G‑d said to Adam: “It’s important that you don’t do this—don’t eat from this tree.” But Adam chose differently. Just like a child who does something that a parent asks him not to, Adam did the same. This was a disconnecting act in Adam’s relationship with G‑d, his loving parent.

And that was OK. Adam was human, he made a mistake. The problem came afterwards. Instead of owning up to the mistake, to the hurtful gesture that caused the disconnection, he made excuses.

G‑d asked Adam the question: “Where are you?”

G‑d wasn’t looking for Adam’s physical location. G‑d has a highly attuned GPS for knowing where people are.

G‑d was asking Adam, where are you in the spiritual sense? Are you going to choose vulnerability and humility and take accountability for your actions or not?

Adam chose not. Instead, he blamed his wife and G‑d. “The wife, You gave me … ”

Big mistake. His decision plunged the world into a darkness that we’re still trying to dispel.

Everything would have looked differently had Adam owned up and taken accountability for his actions. In deep Kabbalistic terms, there would have been the ultimate connection, the ultimate act of intimacy, and the world would have been in a state of bliss. But that’s a topic for another time.

We have this choice all the time. When we make mistakes, we can choose intimacy and closeness or distance and disconnection. We’re human, and making mistakes is part of our DNA. We can unwittingly say or do harmful, unkind things to people. We take actions that are not in alignment with our highest selves and wind up hurting those we love.

For example, as a mom, I have a million and one ways and opportunities to make mistakes. If I’m nervous about something and my child asks me a question, I may reply with impatience.

Impatience hurts. My child doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment for an innocent question. Later on, I can apologize and tell them—“I’m sorry. I was nervous about something, and I responded to you in an unkind way.” And then I can give them a hug. I’m choosing connection. It’s kind, and it nourishes the child and the relationship. It brings trust and intimacy.

Or with a friend. I have a standing policy withImpatience hurts friends that if I say something or do something that hurts them, I want to know about it. I want them to feel comfortable and safe speaking to me about their feelings. And with the kind of friends I have—ones who are kind and trustworthy—it has never failed to bring connection.

So try this. When you make a mistake and hurt someone, own up to it. Take accountability. Say you’re sorry. No excuses. No blame. No trying to turn it around and say, “Well, if only you … ” Nope. Save your complaint or hurt for another time. Instead, just get vulnerable, be humble and acknowledge, “I messed up and I’m sorry.”

Choose connection over further disconnection.

This is healthy shame. It causes you to say to yourself, “Hey, my humanness caused me to hurt that person. They don’t deserve that treatment from me.”

This leads to connection and your little world will look a whole lot different. People will feel loved in your presence. They will feel safe. And you will have the intimacy you desire.