I had a friend send me the following quote the other day: “People never really change very deeply until someone catches them in their shame… and is not appalled. Out of this place, where we have been loved in the midst of our shame, we come to know that we are worthy of love.”
I agree with this comment simply because it communicates acceptance and more importantly… grace.
This hits a button for me. Shame is the belief that ‘you are the bad thing’ not just that you ‘did the bad thing’. It is the core of your identity, value, meaning… the ‘who you are’.
Shame attacks your worth your good-enough-ness and a perpetual ‘less than’ picture of who you are.
Contrasted with guilt, also known as conviction, which produces life because it is about corrective action. Conviction separates your behavior from your identity and worth, (that’s good!), whereas shame welds your identity and value with your behavior (that’s bad!).
We are all more valuable than the negative choices we make at times. God loves us as much on our “worst day” as He does on our “best day.”
Ever notice how in scripture Jesus was not shocked by the sin of others? He certainly didn’t fluff off sin, he addressed it by speaking right to the heart of the person. His reactions of grace, acceptance, and hope were the antithesis of what the church leaders of the day wanted to hear — and also the last thing that the person ‘caught in sin’ expected to hear too. (See John chapter 8…). It’s also the last thing people today, especially leaders, expect to hear when their sin finds them out.
God loves us too much to leave us how He found us.
Practical grace of redemption and restoration are only possible from a position of empathy. That is a key difference between Adam and Jesus. Both faced the consequence of sin, that being, God turning His back on them because righteousness cannot exist in darkness. Adam ran, hid, and blamed God. Jesus said “not my will but yours God.” Both felt the same emotions, aloneness, fear, etc, but only Jesus trusted God enough to handle the enormity of his pain. Because of Jesus’ choice we have all been set free from the debt of our sin, hence, we don’t have to live stuck in shame.
At times, I have found it incredibly difficult to be as honest as I want to be, with myself, with God, and for fear that “if people really knew” what I was thinking they would be appalled.
What has helped the most is hearing, consistently from others, God’s truth, love, and grace — He really is big enough — for all of ‘me’. God does make all things new — He redeems the lost years — restores that which was broken. What if the Church was able to rise so it was known for the practical, and the tactical application of these ideas?
Acceptance and hope are incredibly powerful antidotes to shame.
I’m not there yet by any stretch, but I am encouraged by fellow “wounded healers” who do not freak out when our human-ness shows up. Instead, as Jesus did, they inspire acceptance for ‘whose you are’ (… a.ka., a child of God…), and hope that with a life in step with the Holy Spirit is is possible to be shame-free, and live a life of grateful response.
…Updated from the original draft Shared October 14, 2010…