We stood toe-toe, all but yelling at each other. We weren’t yelling, but it was close. My wife actually stepped in and pulled me away from the conversation. We were standing in the center aisle of the sanctuary at church. After a congregational meeting. Surrounded by people.
Not my proudest moment.
In fact, it is a moment I have long been ashamed of. That isn’t who I want to be and yet, in that moment, all the frustration the last month had piled on burst out. All my pushed down anger boiled up. All my feelings of being undermined and forgotten and not trusted welled up in an explosion of inappropriate, self-righteous heat. For a long time I justified my reaction, but really, all I was doing was avoiding the shame I felt.
I ended up getting fired from that job. Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, but at the time it sucked. A few days after I got fired I went to some friends house to be angry and bitter and, regrettably, drank too much. My wife took me home that night. The next day, since I no longer had a job, I walked the couple of miles to my friend’s house to get my car.
Yup, ashamed of that one too.
We could keep playing this game, but I’ll just go ahead and move on.
I’m realizing just how powerful shame is. More than any other emotion, shame separates us from ourselves and from others. Guilt doesn’t do that. When I feel guilty about something I often work to make it right. But when I feel shame about something I work to hide it. That’s the difference. Shame wants to hide. Shame does not want to be seen or noticed. Shame becomes defensive and angry and resentful and bitter. It gnaws away at us and drives us deeper into the dark pit of despair, breeding feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness spiraling us to greater depths of hiding. Shame convincingly tell us the lie that if we are seen and known we will not survive.
Shame is, perhaps, the greatest isolating force there is; keeping grace an unattainable arm’s length away from those needing it most.
I’ve noticed how Jesus never shamed those who knew all too well the pain of shame. Jesus called the prostitute – she who was used and shamed by the same people – daughter. To the woman who had five husbands, he offered living water. To the man born blind – who was shamed and whose parents were shamed for some unknown sin because their son was born blind – Jesus lifted up saying his blindness was for the glory of God. When the rich young man walked away, Jesus did not shame him. Jesus did not shame Peter for his denial, but breathed encouragement over him as he told Peter to feed his sheep. He praised the Samaritan woman. He touched the lepers. He told called the children to himself.
Of so many people, Jesus was not ashamed.
And Jesus is not ashamed of you.
You, with the deep down secret of things done in darkness – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, with the pulsating fear of being found out – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, who feels ashamed of the perpetration done to you – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, who is ashamed of the image in the mirror – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, who have yelled too loud and too inappropriately – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, who have been cast out by those ashamed of you – Jesus is not ashamed of.
You, who have returned to the addictive cycle again and again – Jesus is not ashamed of.
Me, who feels not good enough – Jesus is not ashamed of.
The Gospel good news shining light on the darkness of shame is that Jesus is not ashamed to call you sister or brother (Hebrews 2:11).
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