Understanding Shame

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My brothers and sisters,

A new post after a long time! To be frank, I had to take a lot of time out, to refocus and ask myself some very hard questions. It has been an uncomfortable season, but it gave me time to reflect, and seek new knowledge on areas for personal growth and to share for others to learn.

Shame Defined

Shame can be defined in more than one way. Here is a list of the common definitions found on the English Oxford Dictionaries website.

A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour;

A loss of respect or esteem; dishonour;

A person, action or situation that brings a loss of respect or honour;

A regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.

The Garden

The scene is set. Adam and Eve had just eaten the fruit from the knowledge of Good and Evil. They had broken a single directive from God. They sinned against Him and themselves, the consequences we are all experiencing today.

The New Living Translation conveys the sudden shift of perspective, and the painful realisation of their actions.

Gen 3: 7 –  At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

This is a direct contrast to the atmosphere before the fall.

Gen 2: 25: Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

One can only imagine such an environment where one can be fully naked, literally and figurately and not have any reason to feel shame in any capacity. It is my prayer that  that as you walk and work in preparation for building a healthy relationship or marriage should you desire it, you take this important principle home:

Sin causes shame, which leads to cover-ups and the death of intimacy. 

It is human nature when facing the reality of shame, there is a rupture of something innocent or held sacred. When such happens, the first point of action, as shown by Adam and Eve is to cover it up.

It is a strong emotion, very uncomfortable and difficult to deal with when a wrong has been committed against God and your fellow man. The consequences are dire, and the intimacy established is long lost, never to be built again, or without its own difficulty.  There is an adage that trust takes time to build, but seconds to destroy.

David had caused some shame to himself, with Uriah’s wife and tried to cover his tracks. The book of Proverbs is riddled with statements and one-liners, sharing the truth of seeking wisdom and insight, making no compromises for the consequences of folly and foolishness.

We have all experienced shame in one way, shape or form. Some we can easily put at the back of our minds, and some plague us every day. But why do emotions like shame occur?

Upsetting God’s Natural Order.
Simply put, there is no excuse. Romans 1: 20 highlights that God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature have been so clearly seen and being understood. The brother who testified that after meeting Christ, he takes full responsibility and lives a lifestyle of repentance. Testimonies of others who obtained a favourable result in the midst of impossibility. We can see the Hand of God everywhere, and we acknowledge it. To go against it will bring shame to us, and we will have to take responsibility for it.

To Humble Us.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 (NIV) makes references to the thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. What is alarming is that this thorn had come from a messenger of Satan to torment him. Now Paul mentions that he plead to God to remove the thorn, but God provides empowering grace (My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness), which motivates Paul to boast in his weaknesses.

This is two-fold. If the thorn had been taken out, there will be no need to operate through humility. Pride will get the better of us, and cause our own destruction. I believe that this thorn had been given to Paul, to ground him and to help him realise that God is the one who is in control and His glory is His glory alone.

The other side is that it shows that Paul is also human, prone to mistakes, imperfect and also unworthy of God. But look how God used him, not only to declare the gospel as an Apostle but to share his testimony on how he persecuted the early church and now is part of the movement of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes a huge level of courage to admit your wrongs.

This can also be seen as evidence of transformation, a renewed mind, for it doesn’t make sense for a person to emphatically state one thing, only for them to switch sides and declare the message that he was once campaigning against. The natural conclusion is that Paul has actually gone mad or that there was merit to what was preached and taught. His testimony about his encounter with Jesus is further evidence of the reality of God which had moved him to repentance and to accept the ministry of sharing His word to the Gentiles.

We don’t know what his thorn is, and I don’t think we will never know. But you know your own thorn, as well as I. This keeps us from being lofty, but to be humble before God and to allow His glory to be shared through us.

To Highlight Our Need for A Saviour
Mankind is inherently flawed. We always want our own way, caring little about the consequences. I’m sure you’ve heard of stories from others about how love was lost, abused, taken for granted, rejected or was favoured over someone else.
We judge on a micro level, whether it is one’s intellect, social standing, money in the bank, dress sense, mannerisms and the like. We associate with like-minded individuals and treat others differently, simply because they are different.

We treat others anyhow, but when the same treatment happens to us, it is always a different story. It’s called human nature/ sin nature. We laugh at others, but we don’t want to be laughed at. We want to be liked by others and will ignore those that appreciate us for those who do, only when it benefits and suits them.

We cannot change the past, and God hasn’t changed anyone’s past but has given his Son and His Word to be able to become free from it. Jesus took the ultimate shame, despising it in the process, and as a result, is now seated at the right hand of the Father (2 Hebrews 12: 2) for us, by taking our sin and offering eternal life to those who place their faith in Him.

No one can be exempt from past shame, and no one can be exempt from future shame. The reality is that we live in a fallen world, and trouble will come. The prince of the power of the air, though defeated, is still on the warpath. There is a greater need to hold onto the faith and to patiently prepare for His return.

Let us not judge one another. The same judgement we pronounce on others will be the same standard used to judge ourselves. We were all lost, once upon a time and we are now found in Him.

For those who are dealing with some level of shame and have to live in fear of open ridicule, please meditate on this scripture.

Psalm 25: 2 (NIV) – I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Isaiah 50: 7 (NIV) – Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Let us remember that one has made it yet. We need God as we continue to grow in character, wisdom, maturity, knowledge and love. Set aside the sins that can cause disgrace and live in obedience to His word. He saved us from the dark. Let us not turn back but let us choose to walk in the light. Amen.

Tunde T. Amao

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