shameMan, am I vulnerable to Shame!

Those who know me, have heard me speak, or have read some of my blog posts, know I have a passion to see men (and women) freed from Shame. (I even capitalize the dang word because of its significance.)

I’m often reminded that the root of my passion about this subject is my own vulnerability to the message of self-condemnation, and disappointment in self, that rears its head on a regular basis.

Shame is the message that, not only did I do something wrong, but there is something wrong with who I am. Guilt is conviction about our behavior; Shame is condemnation about our identity. Conviction comes from the voice of the Holy Spirit. Shame is the condemning lie from the Enemy.

I know all of this. Yet I am still vulnerable. My guess is I’m not the only one. Because Shame returns.

  • I really should have gotten that group email out sooner
  • I left out a crucial individual that that email really should have gone to
  • I backed out of an engagement I looked forward to; I should have managed my schedule better
  • I responded defensively when a colleague implied I should have done more
  • I hurt a loved-one (OK, it was my wife) with my impatient response to a completely reasonable request. I should have been more loving

The condemnation of the word Should is a common thread. As a friend often reminds me, “We need to stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.” I know this. Yet Shame returns.

Types of Shame are legion. But, since a man most longs for respect, his greatest fear is failure—loss of respect from others. For men anything in the realm of failure has the potential to bring up the most Shame:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Failing college
  • Smudged reputation
  • Not measuring up in some physical effort
  • Getting fired
  • Getting kicked out of the military
  • Spending time in prison
  • Embarrassment about body image

But nothing casts more Shame than failure of sexual morals, (probably even for non-Christians): promiscuity, emotional affairs, porn, prostitutes, strip clubs, abortion. Scripture reminds us that sexual sin has the unique distinctive that it is the one sin that reverses direction and attacks ourselves the most. I Cor. 6:18

You may have heard me say this before, but today I’m reminding myself, and you, of the steps that bring about inner and outer reconciliation and freedom from Shame:

1. We embrace grace.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:23, 24

When we forget the power of Grace, we diminish the infinite power of the work of Jesus.

2.We believe what God says about forgiveness and acceptance.

“Their sinful and unlawful acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin”!! Heb. 10: 17, 18

Though we continue to fall short of even our own standards, we remind ourselves that, unbelievably, God chooses to forget. Because the work of the cross is enough.

3. We believe what God’s word says about Shame.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1

Or as The Message puts it, we “no longer have to live under a continuous low-lying black cloud.”

“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame…” Psalm 25:3

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34: 4, 5

4. We bring trusted friends into our journey.

We cannot experience freedom from shame in solitude. It requires open acknowledgement of our broken story with a few trusted friends.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” I John 1:7

When through God’s guidance we walk openly and honestly with others, in the light, we not only experience forgiveness, we have brotherhood, a deep bond, with those we entrust with our humanity.

5. We renounce Shame. Repeatedly. Verbally. That means out loud so Satan hears it.

There is no reason the Enemy shouldn’t continue his attacks on us. In the same way, there is no reason for us to hesitate to pray against them. Because Shame returns.

You and I may be vulnerable to the Should messages that whisper in our ears, but the truth is those are lies. The truth is:

“We are accepted by the Grace of the One whose acceptance of us matters most.” Lewis Smedes