Shame / ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour’
Whereas in recent centuries people were more conscious of the Bible, which brought an awareness of sin and guilt, nowadays people in general are not in that situation. What really troubles people today is their sense of shame, perhaps amongst younger people as well as older.
What is the difference between guilt and shame? Guilt is acknowledged on the basis of authority, evidence and conviction; it can bring deep feelings of humiliation and shame. Shame itself is more of an intuition, an emotion, a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the self-consciousness of our wrong or foolish behavior. Are they the two sides of the same coin? Not necessarily; shame is not always connected to sin. Perhaps we have been subjected to a form of abuse which has left us with a feeling of shame, for instance. Or perhaps we are deeply disappointed in ourselves and feel ashamed by our own performance, or lack of it … Shame is damaging and destructive. It spoils our lives and separates us from others.
There are personal consequences of shame
Shame disturbs our sense of emotional well-being. Because we may be ashamed by our choices, decisions, actions, so our own sense of self-esteem, of self-worth, diminishes. This can lead to anxiety and depression.
There are social consequences of shame
Our social openness becomes restricted by the fear of people recognising our shame and discerning its cause. So, we seek to hide our real selves and that decision begins to isolate us, taking away our freedom of expression with others. We may feel as though someone has written ‘shame’ across our foreheads for all the world to read and explore. Fear, anxiety, social isolation can evolve as coping mechanisms. When we withdraw from our closest relationships out of self-protection, it worsens our situation even further.
There are spiritual consequences of shame
Our ability to relate openly with the Lord is damaged.
In 1 John 2: 28 the Apostle writes “and now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame … Then in Revelation 3: 18 Jesus says “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness…” – that is, your inability to hide your real self from Him when all you want to do is run away in fear. Jesus says that He can clothe us so that we no longer have to fear.
Does the Bible have anything to say which might help? Of course it does. The word shame alone occurs 153 times. It contains examples, warnings and help. Our personal lives and experiences probably contain enough examples and warnings for us, so let’s look directly for help. Let’s deal with our personal shame and see how we might put it to death forever!
When King David deliberately sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba, he was hit by shame as well as a sense of guilt for his sin. He helpfully lays out his response for us in Psalm 51.
Maybe you and I can tackle our shame and put it to death by using David’s experience as a model for our own response. How might we do this?
We need to take some time to bravely face up to our shame and identify the reason behind it, acknowledging anything that is wrong in our lives or emotions. He knows all about it before we speak so He is not going to be shocked by our self-disclosure. Let’s call sin – sin! If the issue is not sin so much as personal disappointment in our personal performance, let’s call it that. Don’t generalise though; be specific.
Acknowledge the issue/s fairly and squarely to the Lord. Name it/them to Him. If confession of sin is due, then confess those sins to God.
3. PETITION GOD
Here is a list of the ways that David petitioned God (see Psalm 51) which might direct our own prayers:
Verse 1 | Have mercy. That is, please lift this intolerable burden off me. Blot out my transgressions. Perhaps you remember what an ink-blot can do to a word on a page; covering it, making it unreadable and no longer recognizable. Only the blood of Jesus can do this for us.
Verse 2 | Wash me thoroughly and cleanse me. I don’t want the sight, smell or stain on me any more. Again, the cleansing blood of Jesus can do this for us.
Verse 7 | Not only wash me on the inside but purge me so that nothing is left on the inside, either. No fantasies or fear-inducing memories.
Verse 9 | Hide your face from my sins so that I am not ashamed by your open look at the real me.
Verse 10 | Create in me a clean heart, not a dirty heart or an ashamed, guilty or fearful heart. Renew a steadfast spirit within me which is steadfastly committed and submissive to you; that is quick to do your will and walk in your ways rather than following my own tendencies.
4. DEAL WITH THE FEAR OF REJECTION BY GOD
Verse 11 | Do not cast me away from your presence; do not be ashamed of me and reject me. Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Verse 12 | Rather, restore to me what I had lost; the joy of your salvation.
Verse 15 | Open my lips that without shame I may raise my praise to you again.
5. THANKFULNESS FOR GOD’S FAITHFUL MERCY WHICH RESTORES US
Verse 17 | The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
6. RECOMMITMENT TO PLAYING YOUR ROLE IN GOD’S PURPOSE FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW
Verse 18 & 19 | Petitions for others.
Note, none of the above is designed to be a liturgy, read aloud mechanically and the matter is over. It’s a process to be undertaken seriously, with His help.We remember Jesus, who scorned the shame of the cross. He takes our shame away from us, putting it on the cross. Hebrews 12:2
If there seems to be a demonic grip, a stronghold caused by our shame, we need to remember that Jesus put the powers and principalities themselves to open shame, and remind yourself and them of that fact. Colossians 2:15
If you are struggling with shame in any way, I encourage you to use this pattern to move into the freedom and liberty and fulness of joy that is God’s personal gift for you. It has your name on it!
Father, I pray for my brothers and sisters, that shame may be broken over their lives and that freedom, security and faith may be transparently alive in them. Every prisoner of shame, I bless you now in the name of Jesus that you might relinquish that shame and walk in total release and fulness of joy. Amen.
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© Roy Godwin 2020