The Antidote to Shame

In Hebrew, the word for ‘shame’ goes beyond feeling embarrassed for yourself.  It’s about hoping in something foolish; (false gods are sometimes called “shame”). It’s the  anguish you feel when both you and the things in which you have trusted, are exposed.

Idols are “things of shame” – false sources of confidence and identity. But their shame is contagious – they make us shameful too! Here’s the cycle: We go to shameful things to feel OK. They make us feel even more shameful, so what do we do? More shameful things.

There are all kinds of examples…

I seek to feel better; usually in habits or patterns that add to my shame:

I buy carpet or shoes or something that promises to make me into a better version of myself.   It’s more than I can afford – but it’s going to change my life! It doesn’t, and so I head back to the shops.

When I’m busy I feel safe and worthwhile. So I volunteer for every project, group and rota – even though I’m already stretched.  If I stop, even for a moment, I feel worthless. So I must keep going and I must keep saying yes.

I look for love in all the wrong places. Or I invest too much in the right places; asking people to prop me up. I invest in alcohol, exercise, food, social media, but its never enough.

I hit rock bottom; and I turn again to the things that put me there.

So how do I break this cycle?

There’s two parts to my shame. The feeling – and the unworthy thing I trusted in to begin with.  I need to face both. My feelings of shame are only one part, the shameful objects of my false hopes also need to be faced.

When I do this, I’m exposed and my instinct is to return to familiar patterns. But I don’t have to. The gospel tell me that here, in my ugliness, I am loved.

The real God sees my true shame, but He decides not to shame me. Instead He is shamed for me on the cross. And He rises to cover me.

Jesus is not ashamed to be our Brother. He’s not ashamed to own us before angels and kings. So when we feel shame, we don’t need to despair. We confess it in all its ugliness, then run to the throne room and cast it at the feet of the King who was cursed that we might be blessed.

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. (Psalm 3:3)


3 thoughts on “The Antidote to Shame

  1. Thank you for your blog and your posts. They bless me every time. I learn from each one of them. There is shining truth in both this post and ‘But I can’t DO it’.

  2. Emma this is one of the best views on shame that I’ve read in a long while.
    Thank You!
    There has been such an intense war on shame recently, it seems many positions would drive us toward shamelessness, the dangerous territory of sociopaths!
    Most of the things that I’m ashamed of, really are bad things. Telling myself they are good will never bring me freedom to follow Christ and love my neighbor well.
    Only Costly Grace can do that.
    Yesterday I attempted to find worth by being a fabulous mom. Balanced, well boundaried, thoughtful, kind… Well, as is often the case whenever chores and cake are involved, my kids got it all wrong. My best laid plans were spoiled, and I was robbed of my big self-esteem boost. I flew in to a tizzy and in an attempt to discharge my own shame, I humiliated two children.
    Fabulous. Mom.
    My 8 yr old daughter ran outside to hide but the 2 year old rid himself of shame in a way more typical of a true narcissist. He blame shifted. Pointing his chubby finger at me he began to scream “NO! I didn’t! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT!”
    It was a moment of deep shame all around. It was not okay. I love my children, so why would I do such a crazy thing? Over cake?
    And now that I’ve done it, what next?
    Comfort myself with cheap grace, say its all under the blood, and I am flawless?
    Tell myself my short temper is cute?
    Call my kids judgemental?
    No! By Gods grace, I repent.
    I go find my daughter and I apologize. I tell her I love her. I don’t demand forgiveness, and I don’t demand that she understand why her mom is so foolish.
    By the grace of God, I step into that risky space of reconciliation.

  3. Thanks Tamlyn
    Caroline – I hear you in these battles! Thank God for His grace

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