We’ve all been guilty of something before. Whether it’s sin or just a silly mistake, all humans know the feeling of guilt the comes after falling short of the ideal. Sometimes the downward spiral ends at guilt, as we confess our sin to God and those we’ve hurt, in order for restoration and healing to begin.
The problem is that the feeling of guilt often causes us to hide. Hiding makes sure no one knows or sees the guilt. Hiding means we can cover up the guilt enough so after a while we don’t even remember the guilt.
But hiding leads to shame. Shame is different than guilt because it is more than just emotion. Shame is about identity.
Shame is a step worse than guilt because shame is a feeling of who we are, not just what we do. Shame leads to indifference, intolerance, and lack of vulnerability and intimacy as it burrows its way further into our minds. Once we enter into the stage of shame it becomes difficult to get out.
Shame is more powerful than pure emotion because it enters into the core of who we are as people. We cannot overlook shame and Satan’s desire to put it at the forefront of our lives. Marilyn Hontz wrote an incredible book on shame and describes shame in a way that captures the depth and breadth of it:
“Shame seeks to paralyze you. Shame cuts you off from truly giving to and receiving from others.”
Our human disposition has us desire the things around us, the things of this world, often more than God. As God makes us aware of the ways we’ve failed we too often let those failures define us, instead of His forgiveness reaching and healing us. Guilt for our failures is not a bad thing if it draws us closer to God, but in my life and the lives around me I see people living in shame due to hiding the guilt.
Shame can overtake lives and become the base identity for people. Shame allows us to be followers of Christ who are defined by sexual sins and relationship mistakes far more than we’re defined by the penetrating love of God.
“Shame is a prevailing sense of worthlessness that leads to the false belief I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.”
This identity in shame leads to our failure to enjoy relationships with others because we’re either too quick to give all we have to someone (that way they have to accept us) or too closed off to ever let someone in (continuing to hide).
Our only hope for finding our way out of the shame is through God’s love. I get the sense that very few of us have truly experienced God’s love in a way that ultimately changes us. So while we’re defined by shame, the opportunity is out there for us to be defined by God’s love.
Would you agree shame defines much of the millennial generation? If not, what do you think defines us?
(Photo: Seattle Met)