Man’s first transgression came from a desire to be something other than what God created us to be. Adam and Eve wanted to be more than human. Shame was birthed out of this original sin. The Oxford dictionary defines shame as, a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. After sinning in the garden, Adam and Eve were conscious of their sin and nakedness. Because of shame, they hid from God.
“So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” Genesis 3:10 (NKJV)
Shame is often linked with the word guilt. In fact, guilt and shame are often used as if they were one descriptive term but there is a definite difference between the two. Guilt means debt and is essentially an emotion resulting from transgressions of a voluntary act. Guilt is felt when we fail to do something right or do something we know to be wrong. Some examples that lead to guilt include lying, stealing, selfishness, cheating, and infidelity. Guilt speaks to our conscience and says, You made a mistake! What you did was wrong! On the other hand, shame means to cover up and to envelop. It is more about a state of being than that of action. Shame says, You are no good, you are bad, you are inadequate. Shame on you!
Shame is associated with the loss of respect by others and the eradication of self-respect. It prohibits intimacy with God because we feel unworthy. Unlike guilt, which is resolved by confession and repentance, shame becomes an identity.
For centuries, many have thought shame to be the voice of God speaking to their conscience. But the Bible clearly identifies Satan as the accuser of believers and confirms that he is continually active in this commission. Shame is the devil’s strategy.
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” Revelation 12:10 (NKJV)
The Bible provides us with encouragement when it speaks of others who battled sin and struggled with feelings of shame. Adam and Eve were the first to experience this emotion but a long list of others are mentioned in the Word. King David, a man God praised as being a man after His own heart, did shameful things. He lusted after Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 12:1-14). God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin. Only after David repented was relief found. It is believed that King David penned Psalm 32, an outcome of his sin.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:3-5 (NKJV)
“My dishonor is continually before me, and the shame of my face has covered me.” Psalm 44:15 (NKJV)
“But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of His people because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 1 Samuel 13:4 (NIV)
We should also consider the apostle Peter. Christ warned Peter that he would deny being His disciple three times but Peter boasted, “Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death.” Peter didn’t believe Jesus. Sadly, Peter ran from the crowd that arrested Jesus and denied Him just as it was prophesied.
“But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.’” Luke 22:33-34 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul illustrated the difference between guilt and shame when he wrote Romans 7:19. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.” This is guilt produced from doing. Then in Romans 7:24 Paul writes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” This tormented cry depicts a soul experiencing the shame of being.
There is something called godly sorrow. It leads a sinner to repentance. Shame, which the devil likes to throw at us, produces misery, discouragement, and emotional pain. Constructive sorrow produces a positive change in behavior and reconciliation with God and others. Shame causes us to hide and breaks our fellowship with God. Our identity is in Christ, not our sin. We are victorious because Christ won the battle over sin and death and has covered us with His redeeming grace.
Do not let the devil condemn you to a life of shame. Be like King David and confess your sins. In so doing, your fellowship with God will be restored. You will find healing and rest when you set your pride aside and acknowledge your sin. Forgiveness will bring you peace and rest, hope and joy, love and fellowship.
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