On the surface, shame can be seen as a tool which can keep us aware of our manners, our surroundings, our volume levels. There are those who will say that shameless people are the people who are brash, hasty, impulsive, or loud, and that a healthy dose of shame is what keeps each person a diplomatic member of our society. Any disobedient child who ran across the street without looking or said something inappropriate at the dinner table heard “shame on you!” – not as an ill wish, but because the parent knows that his or her child must grow to be more mindful and polite.
This is all well and good on a superficial level, but when it is cultivated and nurtured in our spiritual life, shame can be detrimental to both our hearts and our souls.
Shame is a uniquely personal experience. Our temperaments and life experiences result in varying reactions to shame. For one individual, a particular event may result in only momentary concern. For another, the same event has a deeper impact, due to internalization, and becomes toxic over time.
Having lived for many years with internalized shame, we may be unaware of its influence. It can be subtle and unconscious. Other emotions like anger, self-hatred, or envy can keep shame hidden, covering it in our depths. We need the presence of the Holy Spirit to reveal our core of shame, bringing it out of the shadows into His marvelous light.
How aware are you of shame in your life?
Shame gives my experiences the power and authority to define my self-worth. In these situations, feelings of inadequacy and not having what it takes, shift my focus inward, with condemnation reinforcing my core of shame.
Shame hinders our capacity to develop healthy attachments with God and others. Our masks keep God and others at a distance. The greater that distance, the more we are alone. As relational beings, shame sabotages our capacity for being known. Shame limits and destroys community. It imprisons us in isolation.
God wants us to bring our shame and deficits into His light. He searched for Adam and Eve, fully aware of their disobedience and where they were hiding. He asked the first recorded question spoken to mankind, “Where are you?” Likewise, God searches for us, wanting us to welcome Him into the very places we keep hidden from Him. However, we wear many identity labels, based on our faulty beliefs and brokenness, and we avoid His healing presence and touch.
God longs to inhabit us with His truth wherever the lies of shame limit and constrain us. But we must deal with shame directly and not merely try to manage it. Forgiveness is a necessary component, therefore, in processing those wounds. We must also address the faulty beliefs and attitudes of the heart that keep us locked in the grip of shame.
Question for you: What or who do you need to forgive this week to process what shame you may have in your heart?
Regeneration is here to help you work through your shame, as God searches for you to bring your shame into his healing light.
I can still remember the weight of those words “Shame on you” every time I heard them from my parents and how I felt that weight getting heavier each time I heard those words. Fortunately, I have gradually learned those words can lose their power and weight. Thank You God for the freedom You offer.
I heard someone recently speak about John 8, the woman caught in adultery. He shared how Jesus words and actions in this encounter were a way of communicating the message “shame off you.”
Thank you Josh for this very personal timely message.God bless you my brother in Christ.
I’m glad you valued the article, Paul. It’s an excerpt from Path through the Wilderness, written by Bob Ragan, Regeneration’s Northern VA Director.
I remember feeling shame when I compared myself to the expectations of others in my church who I thought wanted me to be a certain type of man that I wasn’t. I had to let go of trying to please these people and I did when I realized that my life was pleasing the Lord and I didn’t have to live up to everyones expectations.