I read a book some years ago called Free Yourself Be Yourself by Alan D. Wright when I first came on staff at Christian Life Center. At first, the title made me a little squeamish because I am not into touchy feely books or content, or that is what I tell myself. The freedom I experienced after reading that book were quite amazing and applying the principles to my life became a pursuit over the last two years. Shame is crippling and, like me, many of us would never think that we filter our entire lives around shame.
Most of the time, the word shame is saved for altar calls, or part of some incredible testimony of deliverance from addictions, freedom from sexual abuse, etc. However, most people suffer from some grip that shame has on them.
Shame Is Contagious
Much like a virus, shame spreads easily and is passed down within the family unit, workplace, education system and even the church. The only way to stop the spread is the gospel because shame is a primary product of separation from God. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid together instead of running to God.
Shame Is Motivational
Let’s face it; we can react to things in one of two ways: in freedom or shame. For instance, your child spills his plate while standing in line at a church potluck and it lands on someone in front of him. As a parent, you have one of two filters to respond through. You could shame your child and take a public discipline approach making sure the adult the child spilled on feels like the punishment fit the crime and show how embarrassed you are. Or, you could politely apologize or hint to your child to apologize and then work together to clean it up and comfort the child that is was an accident and offer kind assistance or payment for the outfit cleaning of the spill victim. Shame motivates behavior, response, and emotions.
Shame Damages Relationships
In my spill illustration, if the child is shamed publicly, the effect is damaging. I am not saying that children do not need correction or discipline, they need it and it is biblical, in a loving and graceful manner that has restoration in mind. This is not a post about discipline, but about the shame filter. When you create an atmosphere in a relationship that is motivated by shame, both parties fall victim to the shame filter. I remember as a child that if my father, grandfather, uncle approached me in anger, I would flinch or cower. My parents or family never abused me physically or even emotionally, but I knew that anger meant there was only one last place to go to. I deserved a butt whooping as a kid, but the point is we do not have to verbally teach our children to learn shame responses, it is built into us because of our sin nature.
Shame Deflects or Absorbs
You need to read the book I mentioned to get a full picture of the shame we often live with. For those that may seem confident in life: shame causes us to live in self-preservation mode, and we defend our position to a fault, alienating relationships, forcing our authority where it was not needed. For those who lack confidence: shame causes you to retreat, to accept incoming abuse as deserved and to settle for less. Get two people who react in shame, and you have a full-blown battle of deflection. If a wife is verbally shaming her husband all the time and the husband just takes it because that’s the way it is, it is unhealthy, and both have a shame reaction. The wife is the active ingredient, and the husband is the catalyst, coming together to form a creation of bondage. Shame is often associated with the one taking the abuse or garbage, but the one giving it is living in shame just as much. I even wrote that illustration as an example of the shame that readers may even react with. You may have thought, “Why did he choose the wife as the aggressive one.” and I would answer in freedom, “because it’s my illustration.”
Shame Is Not Leadership
I am still learning this point in my life. I remember growing up, and coaches, teachers, pastors and leaders would often use public humiliation and shame to lead people. Words like, “You embarrass me” or “If it were me, I would have done it differently,” “Are you stupid” and the list goes on. When we lead from a position of shame, we are coming from a position of weakness that only elevates you once someone else is down. When we lead from freedom, we come from a position of strength that pulls people up with us. I find that leaders who are overprotective of their churches, ministries, departments, etc. are often dealing with shame in some way. Jesus never told his disciples to make disciples and then bring them back to the church in Jerusalem since that is the only church approved by God. No, Jesus gave them a systematic approach to spreading all over the world. Shame tells us that if someone speaks better or has more people under them, that we should talk bad about them, find faults and warn everyone how much better you are. Eventually, shame takes us from protection to isolation, to destruction. Let’s lead from freedom, the freedom that Christ gives us.
I will write about the freedom side of the battle tomorrow, but I would challenge anyone who has not read the book, to do so, you will benefit greatly. Also, take some alone time and reflect on how shame has influenced your choices, your life, etc. There is hope, and that hope is Jesus.
Get the Book Here – https://www.amazon.com/Free-Yourself-Be-Power-Escape/dp/1601422768