Shame, possibly the most powerful emotion created by God, is an interesting force in the life of every human. No one is exempt from the possibility that shame might have its ugly way with them at any time. For some shame comes as a wave that sweeps them over moving them from stability to insecurity. For others it creeps into their awareness like a mist enveloping their mind producing dark thoughts. For still more it assaults them like a dagger into the heart, piercing them and then shredding their life into fragments of negative feelings.
Shame speaks to us in powerful statements; when we feel shame we are likely to be hearing its voice say things like this:
- You are a failure.
- You are useless.
- You are nothing.
- You are invisible.
- You are worthless.
- You are bad.
- You are evil.
- You are no good.
- You are not valuable.
- You are not heard.
- You are not loveable.
- You are not redeemable.
- You are not important.
How did this happen, why would God create such a monster?
It begins and ends with God. In the beginning the world was created in perfect order and wholeness, and God says as the last statement of the creation story:
Gen 2:25 – And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The pinnacle of God’s creation, mankind, was physically and psychologically naked, with shame specifically identified as not being present.
Then mankind rebelled and gained the knowledge of good and evil. One of the biggest evils was that they gained the knowledge of shame; they became capable of feeling it for the first time. See what the first man and woman did when this happened to them:
Gen 3:7-8 – Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden
They went from a state of wholeness, complete and secure in who they were, to nakedness, being exposed and open to evil, insecure and being uncertain of whom they were. So they hid! And that is what shame does to us; it makes us want to hide, particularly from God. And can we blame ourselves for that? After all, who wants to hear that little internal voice telling us that we are a failure, that we are worthless or that we are not redeemable? Who wants to be seen by all of those people around us in the same way, be judged not worthy of being known and then rejected?
Let’s ask again, why would God create such a monster?
That is truly the question to ask, and the answer is found in the word of God. And it has a beautiful simplicity. Consider this verse:
Ps 31:1 – In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
This verse is one of several in the scriptures, notably the Psalms, which share the uncomplicated truth that shame can only ever be removed from a person’s life by God himself. Where shame debilitates and demeans, God lifts us up, strengthens us and wipes the shame away.
Why did God create the monster of shame? To reveal our need for God.
What do we need God for? For everything of course, but in this context, we need God to tell us who we are, to give us our identity. Shame tells us we are nothing; God tells us we are chosen and precious.
And for those that are interested in knowing more, here is a clue as to how we can get the healing power of God working in our lives to remove any shame we feel:
Heb 12:1-2 – Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus took our shame to the cross with Him. All we have to do is to go to that cross and hand it over. Yes it is that simple! But some of us don’t want to do that do we?
Some of us have lived with the emotional enemy of our soul, shame, and called it our friend. We have comfort with shame being present in our lives, because it is all we have known; it tells us who we are, and that provides us with a false sense of certainty. But we don’t have to live that way.
This short essay is titled “ending shame”, and it something all people can do. God invites all those that want to get rid of shame, the emotion that tells us we are failures, unworthy of love and fundamentally evil, to come to Him. Ending shame is about taking it to Jesus, giving it to Him and letting Him despise it for you. It is part of the power of the cross.