“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
It happened suddenly and without warning. That’s what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.
Dictionary.com defines shame as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.”
We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.
We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.
Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to break our neck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds and yes, even ministry service.
Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a main stay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, “What you did was bad.” Shame says, “What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person.”
Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, “If I could go back and do things differently, I’d do this … or that.” Shame says, “I’ll never get it right. I’m a failure.”
Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, “Everyone experiences embarrassing moments.” Shame says, “Yet another reminder that I’m a loser, and nothing will change that fact.”
Guilt is always connected to behaviour, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.
We can’t completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.
And that’s exactly what we must do when the old shame tapes began to play. We must hit the “eject” button and boldly declared out loud today’s key verse,”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Over and over, we should proclaim it until we believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.
Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.