Shame is a toxic thing that just percolates in people. Shame is defined as “feelings of unworthiness” or “to cause disgrace.”
Some people are very attached to the idea of shame and get rather cranky when I suggest that it’s a terrible weapon to try and use against others. Shame is how you discipline people, make them feel bad so they are motivated to change, isn’t it? No. No, it isn’t.
Shame is how you make somebody feel small, so you can feel big. It is not about the other person at all, it is about your own pride. Your desire to cure somebody, to save them, to teach them to mend their ways. Some people are so confused they think shaming people is a form of love. Complete nonsense. Shaming people is about puffing up your own pride.
Dogs do not feel shame, something people always insist on believing. Look at those little puppy dog eyes, he feels so bad. No he doesn’t. He’s learned to play you. Dogs are darn near psychic when it comes to human behavior, they know us better then we know ourselves and their survival is often somewhat dependent on gaming us. Yes, gaming us, my little gaming brothers of the gaming cult. Game is such a cheap parlor trick, dogs have mastered it. If you don’t think dogs play their owners, then you’re not lying on a fancy bed in front of a fire waiting for your next free meal in a household that tends to revolve around your every whim.
People’s poor behavior often comes from walled off shame that’s become an infection, all covered up and circled by pride. Their hearts are no longer soft, they’re resistant and defiant. Sometimes people are in such a state of self loathing and feelings of unworthiness, they can’t love themselves, let alone anyone else.
Christians especially need to really explore this issue because it’s a fascinating one that can bring you a lot of insights into human behavior. One reason it’s important is that the church’s tendency to try and shame people into compliance has driven many people away from religion, sometimes away from Christ Himself. It’s also set up the opportunity for accusations of hypocrisy against the church. Nothing soothes wounded pride quite like watching the wounders get a dose of their own medicine. Even I find that a bit amusing.
If one truly believes in absolute truth, in objective morality, then one does not go looking for buttons to push inside of others that will make them feel bad. When we do that, we’re saying that morality is innate and biological and that we don’t really trust in God’s power to reach people. We may say we believe in objective morality, but we’re really all about the biology. And all about this idea that God is not big and bad enough to deal with people, so we have to do it for Him.
If you read the book, it explains everything. Adam and Eve pick up shame in the garden from the serpent. Shame does not come from God, in fact he covers them with skins. Christ comes to Earth and He takes our shame and condemnation upon Himself on the cross. Shame is such a negative thing, that Christ actually died to free us from it. We were never intended to live in shame.
If you read about Christ’s walk on Earth, He actually never tried to shame anybody. He entices people with love, with reason, with parables, with miracles. Shaming people is a passive aggressive weapon used by the powerless. Christ was infinitely powerful. He didn’t stand outside the temple telling the moneychangers they should be ashamed of themselves or glaring at them in disgust, he flat out went in with a whip and starting turning over tables.
Standing up for biblical values without shaming people is a very difficult walk. It is however, what Christ taught us to do and it can render incredible fruits. Sometimes when I talk about the joys of marriage, I make my divorced friends uncomfortable. They think I’m shaming them. Not at all. If you are feeling ashamed, it is because you haven’t forgiven yourself and availed yourself of Christ’s mercy and redemption. There’s a little secret hidden in there, surrender your pride to Christ and you will never feel the weight of other people’s shaming tactics again.
Today I am absolutely shameless. That may freak some people out because they fear I no longer answer to anybody. They would be right, I no longer answer to anybody. I answer to Christ. If a Christian doesn’t trust in Christ’s ability to lead me, that doesn’t say much about your respect for who God really is and what He’s capable of.
*For my little atheist friends who are always so concerned about my level of submission to my husband, yes I submit to him, too. That’s really kind of a no brainer. Who wants to try and have a symbiotic relationship based on resistance and refusal to ever yield? I’m not even sure that’s possible.