Shame is this thick, sticky thing that when we let it set just coagulates around everything. It becomes this gelatinous mass that seems impossible to remove and we feel that the stain will last forever. Shame, though an inner emotion makes it feel as if everyone can see every wrong thing you've done, every mistake you've made, every error in judgment. Makes me think of another visual of public shame and humiliation, that old practice of being tarred and feathered. The use of pine tar and feathers to publicly humiliate a person is purportedly said to have first been used by King Richard the Lionheart all the way back in 1189. While generally not physically lethal, the emotional and psychological effects could be devastating. That is how shame feels.
But where does shame really come from? What causes us to feel that we are less than, worthless, never enough? Truly, from my own experience it comes from my not believing who I am in the Lord. I know that is the truth, but I still often struggle with it. As I said last week, I know better but I still battle with it.
As I think on this, I think of the scripture in Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus". Yes, we say. That's it. That is all we have to remember, there is now no condemnation for us now that we believe in Jesus. There is no longer any accusation, any blame, any reproof. No shame. But we still live in it...why? We need to read the rest of that scripture, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." When we walk in shame, we are walking in the flesh. When we remember to walk in the Spirit, when we remember who we are in Christ through His sacrifice, we don't allow ourselves to dwell on the things of the flesh, namely shame.
If you look at shame purely though a psychological lense it says this, "As a self-conscious emotion, shame informs us of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor, regret, or disconnection. Shame is a clear signal that our positive feelings have been interrupted. Another person or a circumstance can trigger shame in us, but so can a failure to meet our own ideals or standards." But truly, shame is something that separates us from God. It causes us to look inward and focus on ourselves, not on who Christ is in us. It causes us to default back to the way we were before belief in Jesus; we rate ourselves on our own merits, we judge ourselves on our own scale. And that scale is always tipped, and not in our favor.
As we continue to read in Romans 8:5,6 " For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." I don't know about you, but when I am in that cycle of shame, I feel depressed, I feel weighted down, I feel dark. It feels like death. That is what that verse says, to be in the carnal mind is to be in death. The feelings of despair, of hopelessness, of despondency are as thick as that pine tar. What was internal is now visible externally. Through our behavior, through our actions, or lack of action. For me through my poor choices in eating. Feeding my shame with sugar and junk and pardon my language, with crap. It's a compulsion and I, myself am at a loss to stop it.
But alas, I am not by myself. I have Another who loves me. I have One who wants me to live and to live abundantly. Abundantly in the Spirit. Remember, to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. As my friend Ken teaches, we have to make right choices. Every day to choose to live for Christ, to live after His ways, to choose His will. And oh, some days that is so hard. When the shame and frustration and weight of the world seem to be more than I can bear...but wait, He said He took all of that for us. On that cross, that public tool of humiliation and shame...He took our sins, He took our burdens, He took our shame.
Again, this is a journey for me, as it is for many of you. Day by day to wake up and say, this is the day that the Lord has made. This is the day to be glad in Him. To forsake shame and to rise up as His child. To realize in ourselves we lack, but there is no lack in Him. That in ourselves we fail, but He will never fail us. That in the midst of our despair there is joy everlasting in Him. That is what faith is all about. We need to get rid of our own stinkin' thinkin' and really trust that all He says is true. The tar and feathers that have been used to bring shame can be shaken off and we can gather those feathers up and make a bed to rest in Him as we walk by His power and in His Spirit. I don't know about you, but I certainly can use some rest.
All scripture is from the King James Bible
Information on tar and feathering from https://www.ranker.com/list/history-of-tarring-and-feathering/rachel-souerbry
Quote on shame from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201104/shame-concealed-contagious-and-dangerous-emotion