Can there ever be anything good about shame?
You may have heard it a lot: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Perhaps you felt a knife in your own soul when a parent, teacher, or coach said it to you. Perhaps you watched a sibling or friend wither under such a putdown. Or perhaps you caught yourself saying it to your own child or someone else close to you.
And the truth of it is, that’s right! Each one of us ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We’ve done things, said things, and failed to take action in ways that have harmed ourselves and others. If we were to feel the full weight of our shame we would be crushed. And some of us are.
Human beings hate shame. Throughout the years people have devised all kinds of ways to deal with shame. Religious penance or the doing of good deeds doesn’t address the inner shame, however, even though they try to. Whole movements have developed over trying to get rid of our shame about things such as sexuality or body weight. (Wasn’t that the underlying issue in the “sexual revolution?”)
Think of all the bad things that happen when people don’t deal with their shame appropriately, things such as eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and more. But repeatedly trying to say “it’s OK” is really only an acknowledgment that it’s NOT OK.
Most of us know intuitively that getting rid of all shame would be incredibly dangerous, at least in this world. Living with no shame would mean doing whatever I wanted, taking whatever I wanted, doing anything I wanted to anyone else – and to hell with the consequences! And yes, “hell” is an appropriate word for the results of living in that way. Without shame, anything goes. Literally.
Living without shame only works if our heart is good, if our character is right. In that case there’s no need to cover up and hide. Let the sunlight in!
And right there we come to what’s good about shame.
Shame is good when it drives us to the One who can change our heart and character to become good. Tweet that.
When Jesus gets ahold of us He doesn’t say, “There, there, it’s OK.” Not at all.
Instead, He takes away our feeble attempts at hiding. He shines His light into the parts of our soul we had hoped to keep in the dark. He does surgery to open the infected areas of our lives to let the infection drain out. He holds a mirror before our tear-stained face so we can see our own misery in all its hideousness.
And He accepts us anyway.
We don’t have to hide with Him. We don’t have to stay in the dark, or find tattered rags to try to cover ourselves. We can stand there before Him naked, and yet be completely unashamed.
But if we feel the freedom of no shame and immediately run from His presence out into the big bad world we’ll be beaten up, bruised, and shamed all over again.
No, we need to stick around long enough for Him to heal us. We need to accept His infusion of the antibiotics from His Word that we need to heal the infection in our being. We need to let Him perform the necessary heart transplant so that we can truly have His character. We need to allow Him to cover our humanity with His divine goodness so that we can live accordingly.
All that takes time. He has all eternity. Will you allow Him to heal your shame today?
Your Turn: What are you ashamed of? What does it look like for you to allow God to heal your shame? Leave a comment below.
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- Shame is good when it drives us to the One Who can heal it all. Tweet that.
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