Thursday, June 11, 2015

Shame: The Toxic Alternative To Guilt

Few things have the power to erode confidence and halt growth the way shame does. And few things destroy the credibility of leaders or of churches than the use of shame to motivate or control people. Guilt is a God-given and healthy way of thinking and feeling at times. Guilt is what we feel when we have done something wrong. Guilt alerts us when we have messed up or hurt someone. We all feel it because at some point, we have all failed. Guilt is resolved in the presence of forgiveness. When we are forgiven we are set free from the guilt we carry, and are free to move forward in our life. 

Shame is different.

Where guilt says, what I did was wrong, shame says, who I am is wrong. If you have been taught to believe that who you are is worthless and unchangeable, no amount of forgiveness will make you think otherwise. Guilt heals. Shame destroys. That’s why it is so maddening to see so many people use shame against others like some sort of religious weapon. Somewhere along the way it seems that people have come to believe that if someone is wrong, or guilty, that we are to shame them as much as possible as a remedy for their guilt. That sort of thinking is corrosive and debilitating. Shame doesn’t erase guilt or motivate different behaviors. Attacking someone’s person or identity because of their actions goes against everything that the Gospel stands for. God wants to rescue us from our broken behaviors, thoughts, and actions because of his love for us even while we remain in our brokenness. Both are guaranteed; you are broken and God loves you.

Screaming from the rooftops about what makes wrong things wrongs solves nothing. Forgiveness solves a great many things. Mercy solves a good deal as well. So, if you are feeling shame about who you are, you might be guilty of something (maybe not, I don’t know), but you can’t carry that shame around. You matter. If you are guilty of something, ask for forgiveness (and don’t forget the crucial step of forgiving yourself). In the midst of it all, know that the God of the universe knows you and loves you. Trust God on this one and walk away from the shame that is controlling you. 

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

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