Reading for today Psalm 71 and John 7:53-8:11
Let’s get this out of the way right up front. I’m late writing this devo. It’s 5:45AM when I am starting it. I’m usually long finished and it’s on its way through the magical internet by now. I went to a Chonda concert in Bowling Green last night. (Yes, I do go to my sister’s concerts when I get a chance. And no, I do not buy a ticket. I’m proud of her but not that proud.) She did an unbelievable job. She’s funny. But it meant it was after 1AM by the time I got home. I’m usually up, going to the bathroom for the 3rd time by then. The point is I am late writing today and I feel shame.
Shame is a horrible emotion to feel. It has got to be the one feeling that is manufactured entirely by the devil. Anger can be destructive but it can also be righteous. Paul says “Be angry but do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26) Sadness is certainly a difficult feeling to live with but sadness can be healthy in processing loss and dealing with grief. Pain is not fun but most of the important lessons in life we learn come from pain. I like to say, “The only problem with pain is that it hurts. There are a lot of negative feelings and/or emotions but they all have their necessary and positive sides. Except shame.
Shame is the one feeling that eats away at the root of our very being. Like a decayed tooth it destroys any hope of being functional and does nothing but sit and hurt until it causes us to rot away. (Yuk, that’s a pleasant metaphor.) Shame, like no other feeling works its way deeper and deeper into our souls until everything we believe about God, about others, and especially about ourselves, is colored by shame.
Shame is not guilt. Guilt is from God, I think. David said in Psalm 51, “My sin is ever before me, O God. Against You have I sinned.” Guilt is about conviction. Shame is about condemnation. Guilt is about doing wrong. Shame is about being wrong. Guilt is about what I have done. Shame is about who I am. Guilt, when addressed, makes me better. Shame, unless addressed, makes me more than bitter. It causes me to loath myself and lose any hope of reconciliation. Shame is awful, insidious, defeating and destructive. It has to be from the devil.
But he uses other people to create it in us, sometimes seemingly righteous, religious, rule following people. They create categories, come up with labels, pass down sentences and call us names about who we are. We begin to believe them. We buy in to their shame. I think one of the reasons God comes down so hard on us for being judgmental is because it creates shame. And shame will cause us to get stoned. (Think about it.)
John 8 begins with a story about a woman who has been shamed. Now hear me clearly, she is guilty. Nobody, not even Jesus refutes that. In the end, He says, “Stop sinning.” But the Pharisees want more than to convict her. They want to condemn her, publicly point out what a horrible and flawed person she is, make sure she and everyone around her understands her innate worthlessness. They want to shame her.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to speak for a group of churches in northern Ohio, not as a minister but as a counselor. Most of you have read my book. If you haven’t, shame on you. (That’s funny even if I do say so myself.) Pretty much the whole world, or at least my world, knows about my guilt. I know about my guilt. I really believe not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my guilt. And that’s a good thing. It keeps me humble. It keeps me sober. It keeps me focused. Because of my story however, I suggested that the young pastor who invited me to speak, check with his higher up. He did. It was not pretty.
The superintendent questioned my integrity. He fact checked my bio. Called into question my education. Challenged my weight and my golf handicap. (Okay, I just made those last things up.) He seemed to be saying if you sinned in this one area then you are flawed in every other ares of your life and you cannot be trusted. You are not a good person. The truth of the matter is I found an old familiar feeling trying to creep in, shame. Not healthy guilt about what I had done in the past, but destructive shame about who I am right now as a person. Where did that come from? Not from my story. I’ve lived with that a long time. Not from the young pastor. He was trying to do me a favor. Not even from the superintendent. He was trying to do his part to help God make sure the world is a holy place. (Did those words really some out of my mouth? I said I was forgiven not perfect. Lol)
No, the shame came from a place deep inside of me that somehow, I give the devil access to every once in a while. It is not helpful. It is not holy. It is not healthy. It is just shame. One thing I’ve learned over the last 13 years or so, I can’t afford to do shame. I have to let that go. I hear Jesus say, “I don’t condemn you. Go stop sinning.” (John 8:11) I hear Paul say, “There is therefore NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) David says in Psalm 71:1, “In You Lord I have taken refuge. Let me never be put to shame.” Get this straight. If you are in Christ, there is no room for shame. We don’t do that.
I want to write more about this but for now, here are the lessons, plain and simple:
1. If you are feeling shame, stop it. It is not from God. It’s not who you are. Just stop it.
2. If someone is shaming you, refuse it. You might be guilty. Deal with that. But no one has the right to shame you. God has forgiven you and loves you with a perfect love.
3. And if you are a shame bringer for someone else, well, shame on you. That is not your job. (or mine.) The most harmful, malicious thing I can do to another soul is allow the devil to use me to bring shame. There is a way of pointing out sin, of examining the past, without producing shame. Jesus did.
Well that is enough for today. There is a lot here I want to work on. For now, not only am I late but I have gone on way too long. It’s Chonda’s fault. She should be ashamed of herself.