Shame is such an ugly word. By definition it is “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.” It’s something that we all have experienced at some point in our lives. Maybe we made a terrible mistake or hurt someone we loved. Or perhaps we felt the shame of others pointing out our flaws and weaknesses. Regardless, none of us enjoy shame. Therefore, we all make an effort to avoid it if possible.
Shame is nothing new. It began in a garden long ago. It was the first pain felt by Adam and Eve when they fell into sin. They didn’t understand it when they felt it, but they knew they were ashamed and needed to cover themselves. It was their first response to sin.
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. – Genesis 3:7 (NLT)
Truth be told, our culture habitually blames others when we feel ashamed of our actions. After all, shouldn’t we be free to be ourselves without the fear of embarrassment?
When we mess up, the world around us seems to enjoy pointing out our mistakes. So when the shame comes, it’s easy for us to blame them for the pain we feel.
In reality, however, shame is the direct result of sin. Culture has nothing to do with it.
How do I know this? Well, let’s look again at Adam and Eve in the garden. The first thing they felt when they ate from the tree God had commanded them not to eat from was shame. Why do you suppose that is? Of all the emotions they could have felt… why did they feel ashamed? In fact, they felt so much shame that they literally tried to hide from God.
Did culture tell them to feel this way? Was there anyone around to point out their mistake? Nope. They were alone. And yet they still felt shame.
When it comes to sin, shame is something that can’t be avoided. It’s a direct consequence of our sin. Many of us still try, however.
Here are some of the ways we try to escape shame:
– We shift the blame to others. – This is exactly what Adam and Eve tried to do in the garden. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. But in the end, we are all responsible for our own choices.
– We make ourselves feel better by joining forces with others. – We justify our actions by telling ourselves that we’re not alone. It’s an “everybody does it” mentality. It can’t be that bad if all of my friends are doing it – right? The truth is, we feel less ashamed when we surround ourselves with others making the same poor choices.
– We redefine right and wrong. – This is something that seems to be happening more and more in our culture. We turn our poor decisions into smart decisions. For example: the Bible is clear that pre-marital sex is a sin. Yet our culture tells us that it’s smart to live together before marriage to make sure you’re compatible. In other words, we try to avoid shame by turning foolishness into wisdom. We deceive ourselves into thinking that as long as we have good intentions, our actions are justifiable.
– We ignore the shame and eventually stop hearing it. – God allows shame in our lives for a reason. It is this feeling of guilt that allows us to see our need for a Savior. The more we ignore the shame, however, the easier it becomes. Eventually, we stop feeling it altogether.
The world tells us that the opposite of shame is pride. I’m not ashamed of who I am – I’m proud of who I am.
By God’s definition, however, the opposite of shame is glory.
God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. – Hebrews 2:10 (NLT)
Jesus died on the cross to eliminate our shame and guilt once and for all.
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. – Romans 5:2 (NLT)
From the very beginning, man has made every effort to remove guilt from our lives; but it is Jesus alone who can remove our shame and bring us into right standing with God.
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” – Romans 10:11 (ESV)