Have you ever tried to confront shame or have you done like me and ran from it, pretending it doesn’t exist and putting on a happy face instead?
Maybe we first need to understand what shame is- defined as a "painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety.”
Our natural reaction to the very word is adverse-
Shame? Ugh.. let’s not discuss it, admit it, deal with it or even denounce it.
Instead, let's ignore it and put on our disguise to hide not only the turmoil within, but protect ourselves from judgment and condemnation from the outside world.
Author, Francois de La Rochefoucauld captures this practice perfectly:
“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”
The problem is when we hide from shame and disguise the truth, we commit an injustice against ourselves and others.
What we need to understand and embrace is that not all shame is terrible.
Shame is like a two-sided coin, one side inappropriate,
and the other side is appropriate.
Appropriate shame is justified and can be used to our benefit; whereas, inappropriate or misplaced shame cripples and keeps us from God’s best.
So, how can you tell the difference?
Inappropriate shame is the shame you feel when you've done nothing wrong. When there is no good reason, and you inappropriately feel shame for something that doesn't dishonor God. Inappropriate shame can also be felt when someone has wronged you, but manipulated the situation to make you feel guilty. This is an inappropriate shame- your actions or inactions didn't dishonor God; yet, the world around you makes you feel culpable, out of place or wrong.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Romans 1:16
Conversely, appropriate shame is the shame you feel when it is deserved. You did do something wrong; you dishonored God in your thoughts, actions, involvement, and choices.
"Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame." 1 Corinthians 15:34
The test to determine what side of the shame coin you should be confronting is asking yourself- did you have a hand in dishonoring God?
One of the most powerful stories in the Bible about dealing with shame is found in the life of the Apostle Peter. To Peter's great shame, He denied Christ Jesus THREE times. The very person Peter left his business to follow, spent three years by His side, believed that Jesus was the Messiah and then during Jesus' most desperate hour, Peter denied even knowing Him!
Peter went from being one of Jesus' most faithful and outspoken disciples to denying he ever knew Him. Appropriate shame had to have been written all over Peter's face.
"Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly." Luke 22:54-62
But, what do we see that Peter does with his shame? Did he continue to hide it? Put on a happy face and pretend to the world that it never happened? NO! The first opportunity Peter gets he rushes to Jesus (shame and all) and finds love and forgiveness.
"Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. " John 21:4-7
"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."" John 21:15-17
When Peter presented himself to Jesus he wasn't met with disdain, accusation or even the expectation of an apology. He was met with Jesus' compassion and redemption. God gave him three opportunities to recant his three denials and then sends Peter to start His church!
Let us remember this story of Peter, that God's love can never be contained, and His forgiveness and mercies know no limit. God didn't send His son, Jesus to save us for us to spend our lives hiding and defeated in shame.
So, turn your coin over to God; He can turn your shame (regardless of what side applies) to something useful, pleasing and perfect.
He doesn’t want you hanging your head in defeat over inappropriate shame. Because this is a lie from the Devil to keep you crushed and beaten. God wants to free you from this deception- let Him!
For those, experiencing appropriate shame. You don't need to hide anymore because God still loves you and wants to forgive you. All you need to do is turn your shame/guilt over to Him, ask for forgiveness; and then leave it.
I love this quote by Debbie Ford:
“An exciting and inspiring future awaits you beyond the noise in your mind, beyond the guilt, doubt, fear, shame, insecurity and heaviness of the past you carry around.”
Shame just wants to blame and keep you trapped.
Let's stop carrying that coin around and give it to God today!
Lord, we humbly bring our coin of shame to you and ask that you help us to see it clearly, to discern if we carry shame that is misplaced or inappropriate and to release it to you for truth and revelation. Help us also to see shame that is justified and to be bold enough to bring it to your feet. To seek forgiveness and repentance and receive your mercy. Help us Lord to not live behind disguises that trap us in a world of deceit, lies and unforgiveness; set us free through your boundless grace.
No one who believes in the Lord will be put to shame. (Romans 10:11; 9:33)