I Weighed Down With Shame
- We are in the third week of our series “Beyond All Shame” and if you’ve missed either one of the last couple, I’d encourage you to check them out online or through The Branch app.
- This past week, I ran across a clip that cracked me up. (play video clip of Polar Bear)
- Now that may sum up how some of us feel going to school or work on some days or going to the gym on other days.
- But I also couldn’t help but see it in light of our shame series.
- How many of us have ever known someone weighed down by shame?
- How many of us are familiar with that feeling ourselves?
- Shame is big theme throughout Scripture – bigger than even guilt.
- The term “guilt” is used 155 times throughout Scripture, while the term “shame” is used 345 times.
- One of the reasons I believe shame is addressed so much in Scripture is because sooner or later we all experience shame.
- And yet the good news is, Jesus has come to help us move forward beyond all shame.
- Now, last week we talked about why Jesus dying on the cross of shame matters for us moving forward when we deal with shame.
- In the course of the message, I also talked about how critical it is that we learn how to process our shame in a healthy way.
- Because if we don’t know how to process it in a healthy way, we wind up taking actions in our life in an attempt to cope with it that only compounds our problems in the end.
- What I want to do today and next week is help us understand how to deal with two different types of shame that we encounter in our lives.
- Knowing how to respond to shame has something to do with how to identify what kind of shame is working in our lives.
II Two Kinds Of Shame
- Now, by way of reminder what do I mean when I’m talking about shame?
- Shame is the pain of being exposed for a wrongdoing, or a shortcoming, or an ignorant behavior.
- Last weekend, I shared with you some examples of each of these in my own life.
- Some of the shame we experience with shortcomings or ignorant behaviors has something to with one kind of shame that I call misplaced shame or “false shame.”
- It’s a shame that shouldn’t belong but we feel it because of the value system of the culture we live in.
A young woman is mortified because of her complexion. Her acne has broken out. It’s a “temporary shortcoming.” Her skin isn’t as clear as it could be. She doesn’t want to go to school, go anywhere, or do anything. Even worse she feels terrible about herself. She’s ashamed. Why? She lives in a culture where every image you see on a screen is a person with a perfect complexion all the time. Even more than that she goes to school with kids who “shame” her out of their own insecurities.
Should she feel shame? No. Her body is doing its thing for that time in her life. Do some research sometime on what happens to the body of teenager when it doesn’t go through the hormonal changes that often produces acne.
But even though she shouldn’t feel shame she does. And if she doesn’t know how to handle it, she’ll let it intimidate her from living her life. So what does she do with the misplaced shame and how in the world does being a follower of Jesus help her work through shame being associated with her appearance?
- There are plenty of other examples of misplaced shame in our culture.
- It’s the shame we feel for trying something and failing, for losing, for a physical deformity, or a mental illness such as depression.
- At an even more serious level, it can also be the shame someone feels who’s been molested or abused in some way.
- They are the victim but yet they feel shame.
- I’m going talk about how to work through misplaced or false shame next weekend.
- But I’m telling you what it is because maybe there’s someone you know who could benefit from the message and you want to invite them to join you.
- Today, I’m going to explore another kind of shame we deal with.
- It’s what I call “well-placed” shame.
III Well-Placed Shame
- Well-placed shame has to do with the shame that’s related to a wrongdoing in our life.
- Now there’s a line of popular thought in our culture that says all shame is bad, wrong, and unhealthy.
- But I don’t think that’s true.
- There is such a thing as well-placed shame.
- By well-placed, I mean that there are certain situations where the experience of shame, as unpleasant as it is, belongs.
- It has a role to play.
- Now let me be clear when I talk about well-placed shame, it’s not your job or my job to “place” the shame on someone.
- Jesus said in John 16 that it’s the Spirit’s job to convict us of sin.
- I like what Billy Graham said – it’s our job to love and it’s the Spirit’s job to convict.
- So when I talk about “well-placed” shame I’m talking about the shame one senses on their own when they’ve done wrong.
- What’s going on there?
- I believe our shame alerts us that a relationship is in jeopardy or being threatened by our wrong actions.
- Back to the definition, shame is when we experience some kind of pain or distress due to how we’re seen in the eyes of others – including God.
- You may think, “Well should we even be concerned with how we’re seen in the eyes of others? Don’t most of us spend too much time thinking about that?”
- And some of us do.
- I’ve been very up-front with you about how I’ve struggled with approval issues and people-pleasing in my life.
- But it’s not always wrong to consider how we’re seen in the eyes of others.
- This is part of having a relationship with people around us.
- We were created to have relationships with other people – we’re hard-wired for it.
- God created human beings – plural – because He said in Genesis 2 it’s not good for a person to be alone.
- A lot of times that verse is thought of as applying strictly to marriage, but we learn from the rest of Scripture that not every human being has to be married or needs to be married.
- That statement of it not being good for a person to be alone isn’t always about marriage – it’s about friendship, community, relationships.
- Now what makes friendship, community, or relationships difficult?
- We lie, or we cheat, we steal, we’re selfish – and we’re found out to some degree.
- We experience shame – we’re humiliated or distressed to a certain degree because we care about what certain people think.
- Because we were made to have relationships and now we begin to think, “This relationship could be in jeopardy because of how they see me – they see that I’m a liar, a cheater, a thief, that I’m selfish….and may not want a relationship with me – I may be a risk to them.”
- Now that’s a valid question.
- It’s difficult to have a healthy relationship with someone who lies, cheats, steals or is selfish.
- In this case, our shame is a reflection that we care about what others think and it’s also a wake-up call that we’re not as “pure and good,” as we think we are.
V Shame Is To Our Heart What Pain Is To Our Body
- Shame is like the role pain plays in our body.
- Pain alerts you that something is wrong – there is a part of your body in trouble – it’s in jeopardy.
- Maybe it’s injured or diseased or infected or being threatened by something outside of it like hot water or fire.
- The role of pain is to alert you there’s a problem and take action to remove yourself from what is threatening your health in some way.
- Well-placed shame does this.
- Well-placed shame, meaning shame that’s legitimate and belongs, is a by-product of our sin.
- Like pain, it alerts us that something is wrong – something needs to be addressed.
- I think about what the psalmist says in Psalm 83:16 – Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name.
- The experience of shame can actually awaken us to seek God again.
- Now do you remember me telling you last week how, neurologically – in our brains – when shame is experienced, it puts the brakes on our rationale thinking, ability to empathize with people and socially engage?
- That can be a good thing when sin is involved in our lives.
- It’s making it more difficult for us to move forward for a little bit and giving us a chance to address what it is we’re doing that’s wrong and putting the relationship at jeopardy – either with God or others.
- It’s not pleasant, but it can actually be helpful.
VI Shame As Spiritual Leprosy
- Experiencing shame that’s associate with doing the wrong thing is not the end of the world.
- In fact, it’s when we no longer feel shame or acknowledge shame of any kind that we’re really in trouble.
- That’s like someone who doesn’t feel pain – we think “Oh, that’d be nice.”
- No, it wouldn’t.
- Your body would constantly be in danger from infections or external threats and yet because you never felt any pain.
- You’d never do what needed to be done to make adjustments and protect it.
- This, by the way, is the problem with leprosy – the disease has affected a leper’s nerve endings and they can no longer feel pain.
- Someone keeps walking with that infected toe, or chewing with that infected tooth, or working with that infected thumb and doesn’t protect it or get medical attention until it’s too late.
- They lose their toe, or part of their jaw, or thumb to infection.
- This is why lepers are missing parts of their body – they’ve lost touch with pain and didn’t protect those parts when infection set in.
- If someone never experiences shame that’s related to their wrongdoing or sin – they are experiencing a spiritual leprosy of sorts.
- They’ve lost touch with a key signal that lets them know their relationships with another person or people or God is in jeopardy because of what they’re doing.
- To never feel or experience shame is to be in really dangerous territory.
- It’s interesting that in the Bible there are times when people lose contact with shame in their lives and God sees it as a problem.
- This is a big theme in the book of Jeremiah when God’s people are completely immersed in a season of rampant idolatry and sexual immorality.
Jeremiah 3:3 – You have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame.
Jeremiah 6:15 – Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.
Jeremiah 13:27 – Your adulteries and lustful neighings, your shameless prostitution!
- Here God is lamenting the fact that His people have lost touch with shame for things that they should feel shame for.
- The reason I’m pointing this out is that as unpleasant as the feeling of shame may be – it’s not the worst spiritual condition of all.
- A worse condition is to lose the capacity for it.
- It’s a sign that we are still spiritually alive if we experience shame for a good reason.
VII Examples Of Well-Placed Shame
- So what are some examples of well-placed shame according to Scripture?
- There are shameful ways of treating people.
Luke 20:11 – (words of Jesus in talking about how people treated the prophets who came before Him) – “He sent another servant, but that one they also beat and treated shamefully…”
- There are shameful lusts.
Romans 1:26 – …..because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts…..
- There are shameful ways of “helping” or “ministering” to people.
2 Corinthians 4:2 – (words of Paul while talking about how they went about sharing the message of Jesus –) ….We have renounced secret and shameful ways……
- In this passage Paul is dealing with how some manipulate or use people under the guise of “ministry” and serving Jesus.
- So, in short, there are shameful lusts, shameful ways of treating people, and shameful ways of doing ministry or helping people.
- These are just a few examples of well-placed shame or shame that fits.
- Shame is not always the enemy we make it out to be.
- It’s an alert system that something is not right – it’s calling us to slow down and consider our ways.
VIII When Well-Placed Shame Becomes Toxic
- Here’s the problem though.
- It’s when we don’t know how to process well-placed shame in the right way.
- And this is when well-placed shame becomes toxic.
I’ve mentioned to you before professor Brene Brown out of Houston and her work on shame in our culture. She refers to shame as “the swampland of the soul.” (put up picture of swamp) Now when she uses it that way she‘s referring to shame in a negative sense for the most part.
Maybe some of you have lived in Florida or Louisiana and are familiar with swamps. Swamps are not pleasant places. They’re humid, infested with all kinds of insects and snakes, water levels can rise and fall more quickly than you realize, and it’s easier to get lost that you might imagine.
But swamps have a place in our larger ecosystem. Believe it or not the dense vegetation actually works as a natural filter for water. Swamps themselves act like a huge sponge in certain parts of the country soaking up water and preventing massive portions of states like Louisiana and Florida from being covered in water.
Swamps have their place in the larger scheme of things. But you don’t want to go building your house in them.
- So it is with shame.
- It can have its place in our lives when it comes to wrong doing.
- But we were never meant to build our lives in the swamp of shame.
Well-Placed Shame Becomes Toxic When….
- We Try To Avoid Or Deny It
- Some of us lash out in defensiveness.
- Others of us may minimize what we’ve done or hide it all together.
- Others of us immerse ourselves in the pursuit of pleasure or “feeling good” all the time so we don’t have to think about it – the path of addiction.
- Others of us get busy.
- Others of us look for new relationships to help us compensate for feeling such shame.
- Others of us resort to being profoundly judgmental of others.
- Others of us pursuit all kinds of titles, trophies and trinkets of honor and affirmation in our culture to compensate for our feeling of shame.
- There are so many different things we try and do to shake the shame of wrongdoing in our lives.
- And we become stuck in this shame cycle.
- More often than not what’s at the root of this is pride.
- We have difficulty confessing and owning the fact that we’ve done wrong.
- Well-placed shame is meant to call our attention to what it is we’ve done, own it and confess it.
It’s like the toothache we feel – it’s pointing to a deeper problem. You can keep taking pain relievers, chewing on the other side of your mouth, etc….but the ache is trying to point you to a problem that needs to be addressed and the infection only grows worse.
- It’s very difficult to help a sick person who won’t admit that they’re sick.
- But it starts by facing and acknowledging here what I feel shame for doing that was wrong.
- Others of us don’t avoid it or deny it though.
- We experience it becoming toxic another way.
- When We Camp In It
- Some people soak in their shame for a lifetime.
- They completely internalize it – they don’t get addicted, or busy, or judgmental, or diving into new relationships – they just decide they’re not worth loving, life’s not worth living, and there’s no use trying any more.
- They begin to get their identity from it.
Amanda Bonneau goes to The Branch. Just last week, she shared something that she has graciously agreed to let me share. She’s been on quite a journey with shame in her own life associated with things she regrets. Several days ago she was having one of those days that others of us could relate to. She was camping in her shame. She writes –
Yesterday my little boy (unfortunately) overheard me crying and basically ripping myself apart verbally. I was in a super dark place and speaking to my husband about every shortcoming I felt I have…(i.e.:I’m a bad mom, I’m a lousy wife, etc.). Suddenly, sheets of paper came wafting down from upstairs. (put up picture) When I looked closer, the pages said “satan’s lies”. I went upstairs and found him standing there with tears streaming down his face. He said “mom those things aren’t true”. I never meant for him to hear me say those things about myself. But I’m so thankful that God chose to speak to me through my precious little boy. Don’t believe what Satan says about you. Remember who GOD says you are!
- I hear that story about Amanda’s son and I think about the old prophecy about Jesus in the Old Testament – “and a child shall lead them.”
- I think it’s worth noting that her son knew what to do when she was starting to camp in her shame.
- Somebody had poured into him some truth that his own mother was now reaping from him.
- And did you notice what she said at the end about not believing what Satan says about you but remember who God says you are?
- Well-placed shame is only meant to call attention to what we’ve done – not who we are.
- As I’ve heard it said before, “Satan calls us by our sin, but Jesus calls us by our name.”
- You and I are more than our sin and more than our shame.
- And speaking of that, let me leave us with this.
Dealing With Well-Placed Shame In A Healthy Way Happens
- At The Cross Of Christ
- Psalm 31:1 says – In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
- Psalm 34:4 says – Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.
- Our deliverance from shame comes through looking to Him.
- And this happens particularly at the cross
- I really explored this with you last week so if you missed the message, I hope you go back and check it out.
- Jesus took on our shame at the cross.
- Which is why Peter writes in I Peter 2:6 –
For in Scripture it says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
- And the reason is because at the cross He took all of our shame.
- It’s at the cross, Jesus says, “Here, let me take that.”
- In A Community Of Christ-Followers
- I believe that a critical part of dealing with the shame that comes with our particular sin and wrongdoings involves telling our story to someone else.
- I love the way Brene Brown puts it – Owning our story and loving ourselves through is one of the bravest things we will ever do.
- But not only is it brave – it’s actually the path to moving beyond the shame in our lives.
- There is healing to be found in confession, in vulnerability, in transparency.
- I’ll let a Christian psychiatrist named Curt Thompson put it this way –
I am more effectively convinced that God does indeed love me when I hear love in the voice of someone with real bones and blood who has just heard my worst shame.
- To put it another way it’s easier to believe in the reality of an invisible God’s love for me in my shame when a visible person of God in front of me is loving me in my shame.
- There’s so much in that one little verse from James 5:16 – ….confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
- And one of those things for which we need healing is the shame that comes with our sin and wrongdoing.
- It’s at the cross of Christ and in relationship with other Christ-followers that our sin and shame can be addressed so that neither has the last word on our lives.
- Some of the most powerful words we can hear when processing our shame are the words “me too.”
- This is why we continue to “bang the drum” here about the importance of each and every one of us finding our way into relationships with a few trusted believers – be it in small groups, or men’s or women’s groups that meet during the week or our Celebrate Recovery ministry or our student ministry.
- Because facing our shame is a team sport.
- Don’t settle for life in the swamp.
Beyond All Shame
Dealing With Well-Placed Shame