“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” 1 Corinthians 4:14
Shame – Language is not simply descriptive. Language creates culture. In a very important way, what you speak determines how you view the world. That’s why the same event can be called a miracle by one person and an anomaly by another. That’s why Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on even what is a fact. Language shapes us and our world. By examining the history of our language, we can often discover why we think about life the way that we do.
When it comes to self-identity, there is no more powerful inhibitor to growth than shame. Shame robs us completely of dignity, trust and well-being. When you experience shame, all you want to do is hide. How does shame do this? The Greeks described shame with a combination of words that gives us an insight into its power. They combined en (in, upon) and trepo (to turn) to produce entrepo (shame). What they understood is that shame turns us inward, into ourselves, away from others. Shame is withdrawal from relationships. The Greeks realized that shame is essentially a social concept. When I experience shame, I am reacting to circumstances where I am socially humiliated or ostracized. My social rejection, whether real or imagined, plunges me into the dark world of isolation. Shame’s great destruction comes from its ability to make me feel unaccepted by someone else. Shame depends on a damaged relationship.
Thank God, shame is not the same as guilt. That’s why Paul can say, “I do not want to shame you, but I still want to admonish you.” God knows that shame destroys what is essential to who you are by seducing you into believing that you are not loved and not worthy. When you are shamed by someone else, you don’t’ get the message, “I don’t love you.” You get a much more damaging message. “You are not worthy of being loved”. Now you see why understanding God’s love for you is fundamental to redemption. God thought you were worthy of being loved even when you didn’t, and God is always right.
There will be times when we feel shame. Fallen humanity uses shame as a weapon against others. But the dark path inward is not God’s way. God demonstrated His evaluation of your worthiness when Jesus died for you. Nothing and no one can ever change that. Never water down what it means to say, “God loves me”. God’s love is the fundamental fact of the entire universe and you are part of it.
When shame tempts you to run and hide inside, remember this: the social context of shame means that shame is always about how I think I appear to others. Shame plays on my ego need to be accepted. But shame cannot obliterate what God did. Jesus knew my shame. He was rejected by men in order that I could be accepted by God.