Shame is a dirty word. I’ve decided to take it back.
We forget the issues. We are so trained to judge ourselves and others.
We neglect that shame is not the wrong we did– it’s the realization and remorse that we did wrong. It’s when we DON’T feel shame for these things that we should worry.
Too often, we let shame get in the way. It clouds our thoughts. It’s a fog over everything. It’s a smoke. It fills the room and we cough, and even when we can escape it, when we return, everything we once loved still smells of the burning. It makes our happiness bitter. It changes our memories and scars them.
We let shame get in the way of our self worth. We think less of ourselves. And then this feeling unworthy affects our relationships. Our parents, siblings, friends, lovers– they don’t understand why we think so little of ourselves. They don’t understand why we can’t look them in the eye. Why we can’t seem to feel loved. We take our feelings and put them onto God– but not in that, “give it to God” kind of way. Instead of handing them over, dropping them at His feet, we pile them up as high as we can– all our issues, our shame– and we let it form a wall between us. We build it as high as necessary so we can’t look in His eyes. We hope He can’t see ours, either.
We’re wrong, of course. He sees. He wants to. Because the conscience He put in us as part of our compass– our inner guidance that points to Him and what’s right– that’s what makes us feel shame when we do wrong. Sure, we learn to feel it for other reasons too. Our compass is affected by many other things. We feel false guilt all the time. But the true kind, real shame when we did something bad or hurtful, was never supposed to separate. When we feel ashamed it means our heart is soft enough to feel. It means we still care about the person we’ve offended or let down. And while it may not be ideal, that’s still a healthy, good, and pride-worthy thing.
I’ll venture to say this is where we screwed it all up. Christians, I mean. Or anyone else who considers themselves particularly “religious” or “moral.” We think that taking a stand against sin means not talking about it or pretending it’s not there. We think that any sign of shame is a leprosy– instead of recognizing the symptom as an arrow to the Cure. It infects our churches. It’s why no one wants to come. It’s why the churches that are thriving and growing right now– are thriving and growing right now. Because some of us are stepping up, and I hope more do. Not just in word, but in action. It needs to cut to the heart. Church isn’t a bunch of rules and rule-upholders. It’s not for the judgemental. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a support group. It’s Sinners Anonymous. It’s our weekly meeting. It’s where we stand up proudly and say, “Hi, I’m [insert name here]. And I’m a sinner.” And everyone says hello. And we socialize and laugh and sing. Because we’re in recovery.
Many thanks to Aaron who posted this [below] today, and a few weeks ago. It hit me then, but today his comments prompted this post. I hope we can think about it. I hope it impacts our world– and permeates every second of how we live.