(Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash)
Shame is a powerful emotion. It speaks to us of our identity and through that, our choices and behaviours. The Bible does have a bit to say about shame:
1. We were not designed to carry shame.
In Gen 2:25 we find the Bible describing that shame was not in the original human experience. It was only introduced because of sin.
2. Shame causes us to hide.
When Adam and Eve felt shame, they tried to cover up and hide. Problems arise when we are hiding from the people that can truly help us, especially God. In this way, shame has the potential to destroy important relationships in our lives.
3. Shame causes us to "dry up".
Interestingly, the word used for "shame" in the Genesis account, as well as others in the Bible paints the picture of "drying up". Shame has a "drying up" effect in our lives.
In 2 Kings 19:25-26, Isaiah prophesies about Assyria, saying, “‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots,like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up."
Shame takes away the conditions we need to thrive. Shame tells us that we are unworthy and tells us to reject grace. The receiving of grace can cause us to feel more keenly our "lack" and therefore make the shame stronger. Yet the only way to overcome shame is by grace!
4. Shame is the enemy of faith.
In Luke 11:5-8, Jesus tells this parable, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need."
Because of shame we can stop asking and believing that God desires to provide and give us what we need. Faith requires perseverance, a courage to continue to put yourself out there in asking for what you need. Shame only wants to hide, and is in this way, an enemy of faith.
5. Shame is NOT more powerful than grace.
2 Cor 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Through grace we have salvation. If we accept God's free gift of grace (which by definition means that we are undeserving of it), then we are made righteous. This means that we have right standing with God!
Shame seeks to tell you that you exists in a different rank to God. That you shouldn't even be able to stand in His presence. But grace says God accepts you and freely allows you into His presence. No matter what shame seeks to tell you, listen to the voice of grace!
6. Shame weakens when we are in true community.
Jame 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." God has designed us to live in community. In true community there is appropriate openness and vulnerability, the enemies of shame. When we learn to accept grace not just from God but also the community, shame's grip on our lives weakens.
My prayer is that you seek to live free of shame. God has already accepted us, loves us deeply, and calls us to a higher life. Shame has no part in this life.