Sometimes I differ a bit from some Christians in my ideas around shame, but I genuinely believe it is a nearly useless emotion that pretty much just leads to destruction. I mean, just repent, early and often, problem solved. Set it down at the cross, it’s not yours to carry.
I think I’ve got some Biblical precedent to go on here too, because Jesus goes to the cross “despising the shame” on our behalf as it says in Hebrews 12:2. So what He has put to death we should not be trying to pick up and carry around.
I genuinely believe shame is from the enemy and designed to keep us from God. Either you carry your shame around or you let Jesus carry it for you. There isn’t really an in between place one can go. Like, you can’t help Him carry it for you. You can’t hang onto a little bit of it to demonstrate some kind of virtue. And if you are hauling it around and not even aware of it, well, that’s the worst kind of shame of all.
If shame actually worked, I might be all for it! People try to throw it at one another as a way to manipulate and control behavior. That might temporarily work on the smallest and weakest among us, but for the vast majority, shame just becomes yet another corrosive force in their life.
Nearly everyone who starts to feel bad or lousy about their weight, runs home to indulge in a bunch of carbs and comfort food. Many people tend to just drink even more to try to wash away the shame. Our response to other people’s shaming is rarely, almost never, going to be, Oh, So I should just change my behavior and mend my ways?
Also, 90% of the time other people are just full of coconut candy and totally unworthy to shame you in the first place. You don’t have to hand anyone that power! They don’t walk in your shoes, and I assume you have the same access to the Holy Spirit that they do?
We have an addict on our street who for years now won’t pull up his pants. Yep, he’s letting it all hang out for the whole world to see. Not the gang banger droopy drawers some falsely believe is somehow stylish, but I mean this guy drops his pants so far he has tripped and landed on his face a few times. Everyone yells at him constantly, especially the men on this street who seem to believe they can just shame him into mending his ways.
It simply doesn’t work that way. His brain is too pickled to sense our disapproval, and his heart is anesthetized with whatever substances he is on that day. How do I know I am right and that shaming doesn’t work? Well, we are going on 12 years now, 12 years of having an addict consistently mooning us. Also, he has tried to die a few times, which is also stressful on the whole neighborhood. It really wears on you watching people slowly self destruct and being almost powerless to do anything about it.
It’s incredibly selfish of him. Seriously. I realize that people are sometimes consumed by their own afflictions and simply can’t see anything beyond their own misery, but that doesn’t change the selfishness of it all. In fact, being completely unaware of anyone’s misery but your own, is probably the very definition of “selfish.” I watched this guy grow up. It might be a superficial relationship, but his self destruction still impacts me and it’s something I have no say in.
I say I’m “almost powerless” because I can still pray, which I do and that really is powerful. I am absolutely certain he is is going to meet the Lord one way or another. In the end, everybody talks to God. I would just prefer to see him wake up, come alive, reap some of the goodness of life while he still can and not just harvest its destruction. Ultimately however, it’s not up to me.
In some ways I really appreciate the lessons I’ve gotten from the mooner. He has no guile, no pretense, no shallow, social niceties going on. He is not the least bit concerned about “cancel culture” or someone “making him look bad.” His flaws, his rear end, his sins, are just hanging out there for all to see.
I would prefer that people cover themselves in a bit of white raiment and keep their skeletons tucked neatly in the closet, but I think the church at large has something important to learn from those outside the bounds of polite society who live their lives without layers of social insulation hiding who they really are and what they struggle with.
I really like the saying, “she who has the Most High, needs no other high.” Why would we need a Most High in the first place? Mostly because when you take away our social insulation, our masks and our coping skills, we all look a bit like my neighborhood’s mooner.
Barabbas Me said:
I think the word you were looking for is Condemnation, not shame. Many confuse the two. They are not the same. Being “Ashamed” of our sin and unworthiness in the sight of God and His standard is what leads us to repentance. When someone uses “shame” as a form of condemnation to make someone feel worthless and irredeemable THEN it’s not the shame that is the issue… it’s the Condemnation and the Person interposing himself in between that soul and the gracious God who forgives freely and fully… making himself both jury and executioner… that is to blame. The problem as I see it is that we have mistaken Shame for Condemnation. So now we see whole generations that have no shame or “compunction” about their sin or their way of living. “Don’t judge me, man!”, misuing matt 7 has replaced the true judgement of John 7.24, of the Lord and the feeling of guilt and yes… shame we should have and is right in His Presence. When a nation or a people or a person no longer Fears God and the consequences to themselves and others of their actions and yes.. Sins… Well, let me just say there is no true repentance for what you have no Shame in doing or being. Again, I think you’ve mistaken the word Shame for Condemnation.
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You could be right, perhaps shame without all the condemnation attached to it serves a good purpose? I don’t think shame is the right words, but I am sure Godly sorrow can be a good thing.
When I look about in the world I do not see generations of people with no shame, I see people heavily burdened with shame and hearts just so hardened by it they can’t see anything else. Bullies picking on others, people on the streets screaming about their sexuality, lots of acts of aggression can all symptoms of shame, too. Sometimes people seem to just go, “if I am condemned and unworthy, let me just show you how condemned and unworthy I really am.” And sadly, some people aren’t even aware that there is another option, that you can be forgiven, celebrated even.
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Citizen Tom said:
When we condemn a person in order to shame them, condemnation and shaming amount to the same thing. The Bible does not call upon us to judge others. The Bible calls upon us feel shame for our own conduct.
We do have a responsibility to hold each other accountable. So, John 7.24 calls upon us to correctly judge the conduct of another. Because the Pharisees focused on following arbitrary rules and shaming those who refused to follow their rules, Jesus condemned their behavior.
Are we supposed to feel ashamed when we behave badly? Yes, but that shame should come from the knowledge that if we accept the help of the Holy Spirit, we know we can do better. That is, when we sin, we have failed to do what we know we can do if and when we try.
As Christians we should not shame, condemn, or ridicule anyone. Because we all sin, none of us is fit to judge another. Nevertheless, our sins should make each of us ashamed enough to repent and seek mercy from God.
We can hold each other to account, but we are not each other’s judge. We can look at what other people do. When a man sins shamelessly and/or hatefully, we must fear him the same way we would fear a wild animal or a madman, but many sinners are ashamed of their sins. When they ask, we can give them the reason for the hope that is within us.
Our Lord calls upon us to seek redemption for all at the foot of His cross. When a man understands what he is doing is wrong, we must teach him about our Savior.
IB it has been my experience, that one of the greatest blessings derived from an intimate relationship with Christ is the relief from shame, doubt, and fear. I am forgiven!
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Amen! Me too, Jeff. He came to set the captives free! This is the good news, the gospel, we no longer have to be slaves to fear and shame and all the other rubbish!
I try to tell people, having a relationship with Jesus is even better than winning the lottery! It’s a tough sell sometimes, but I’m absolutely serious. There is unimaginable joy and peace to be found, even in the struggle of life.
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It’s indescribable but we gotta share what we know and can describe
You do it well
Know you know 🙏🏼
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Selfishness is a human norm. From dusk to dawn we are constantly on some quest to satisfy something within or without us to make “us” feel better. Your “homeless mooner” does so because he is selfish to his own ends, which we surmise he is surrendering to his mental state, to give value toward our own opposing “mental state”. We pass judgement onto others daily to make ourselves feel more.. exalted in some form. We even pray to improve our own spiritual being in an attempt to give our own lives meaning. We are charitable because it makes us feel better to give of ourselves. Assigning shame onto others makes us personally feel better… accepting shame assigns to ourselves a measure of guilt, a moral “scourgng” to inflict pain upon ourselves.. again, to make ourselves feel better. To make our species seem all the more incongruous, there are humans that gain personal, selfish, satisfaction by victimizing other humans for any and all reasons. A soldier kills on the battlefield largely for the duty of patriotism.. that duty meeting a personal justification, a validation of self-esteem. A physical or emotional abuser does so against others to give themselves more worth or to satisfy a personal impulse. We “love” to fulfill an emotional selfish need to feel loved. We make love to meet the demands of our natural human procreation programming… with the reward of it “feeling good” physically and emotionally. Having offspring is a supremely selfish desire (when desired).
While “selfishness” is oft considered a fault, it is in fact what makes the “world go ’round”… when our quest for what makes us feel better also includes helping others feel the same way. The ultimate win-win from tapping into our empathy.
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That’s a very cynical view, Doug, but partially true. Much of human nature does surrender all to our own selfishness. Even the acts we perceive as good are often motivated by a desire to relieve our own guilt or make ourselves feel more virtuous. The Bible refers to much of what we try to put on as “filthy rags,” I suspect in part because God sees how so much of what we do is simply designed to make our own selves feel better. It is often self serving. However, we really can take our eyes off our own selves and engage in sacrificial love instead, as Jesus did! We are not bound by our selfishness. It’s not feeling good about ourselves that is the problem, it’s not being able to see anything beyond our own “self” that is the problem.
I rather didn’t mean to suggest a cynicism in my observation about selfishness but rather an observational acceptance as to what and who we are. With that I am suggesting is that if we know who we are then we can improve how we exist. Rather than fight the idea of “selfishness” we accept that not all selfish things are indeed “wrong” or a fault to be corrected, but part of the process of betterment inherent within ourselves.
That being said… the last couple decades I have “evolved” toward a more human side to existence than that promoted in the Bible. My thing alone and I impose that on no one. Religion is personal and I see no need to “debate” between ideologies because spiritual enlightenment in whatever form is important to our being human.
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It’s all good, Doug. I am totally with you about accepting and embracing the goodness of our design, our humanity. God made us and pronounced it good. I think the Bible actually reflects that truth, but religion often does not.
Also, it’s a little bit complicated because religion often tries to define “selfishness” …..in a very self serving way. “Selfish” often becomes anything that doesn’t fuel the needs of those in power.
On that we are in agreement.
Jack Curtis said:
Shame: The occasional awkwardness of the presence of self- preservation in a social species?
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An interesting perspective on what a Biblical take on “shame” could mean is found in the Genesis Eden story. There it is shown to be intimately connected with self-knowledge, or awareness of oneself as a conscious sepratate entity… separate from Creation. This is illustrated by the first couple’s reaction to noticing their ‘nudity’ in the presence of Yahweh after deciding to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Pre-apple, the humans exist in a blissful naive paradise condition with no real opportunity for individual action because they as yet posess no real individuality (like a chipmunk lacking self-awareness), and this the hierarchies of gods and angels operate through them. But now with this new drama unfolded, individual conscience and moral intuition is to gradually take root — which is fundamentally necessary if a being is ever to evolve towards unselfish egoless love.
Thus shame has many colorations. It is true that feeling excessively shameful and thus unable to harness one’s individuality towards positive social or spiritual activity is never a good thing. But shame — the poignant awareness of one’s moral shortcomings — carries the seed of the wish to do better in the future. This impulse is what Christ is attracting forth.
The institutionalized religious interpeted notion of endless salvation due to perfect forgiveness of one’s sins, through Jesus, is an extremely unfortunate distortion of reality. I think it is correct that the deed of Christ has opened a new way towards realizing our human Divinity. But it is a convenient fiction to wrap things up in a doctrinal bow by asserting that achieving forgiveness by humbly asking for Jesus’ forgiveness constitutes the end of the story. Simple. Finito. No! Much more is coming; much more evolution is intended. A big co-contributor to this fantasy is the loss of awareness about repeated earth lives and reincarnations (which was encouraged into the Faith by the early Catholic Church before the Middle Ages). This blind spot permitted the Church to terrorize souls with fear so they would believe total piety, or whatever, would have to accomplish its magic within one lifetime. Or eternal doom. Making it illegal for laity to even read Scriptures was also a key technique in this deception. It is clear in various places in the Bible that the authors of Scripture were well aware of the truth of repeated earthly lives for human souls. Mark’s Gospel, for example, where Christ asks of key disciples who they believe Him to be. One answeres Elijah, another some other O.T. figure and so on. Clearly pointing to a reincarnation of a previous figure. Util one answers correctly “Thou Art the Christ”, signifying a member of the Godhead who never before walked the Earth.
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Interesting take on things! I share some of your views on Genesis, on shame in it’s purest form as being related to becoming self aware. We often see that same progression in child development, somewhere around 3-4 children start to become aware they are separate people and the whole world is not just an extension of them.
LOL! I also tend to think pretty much anything that tries to wrap everything up in a tidy little doctrinal bow is likely to be a convenient fiction.