Biblical shame is genuine. It was one of the first things that happened to Adam after he sinned against the Lord. His response to shame was to grab a few fig leaves, which began a cover-up process that we all emulate.
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You may want to read:
- Rick’s Counseling Notes on Guilt and Fear
- Danger of Guilt and the Need for Good Friends
- Three Ways to Overcome Sin and Temptation
(The shame I’m talking about in this article is what happens when a person sins. There is “false shame” (or guilt), which does not come from your transgressions.)
We learn two things from Adam’s transgression. There are side effects to sin, and we must not ignore these consequences. Biblical shame is one of those consequences.
If you do not correctly respond when you transgress, this awkward internal feeling may tempt you to do what Adam did. He put on fig leaves to mask the inner shame. He then ran from the “Truth,” and later on, he began to justify his situation by blaming his wife for what happened. Think about how shame can tempt you.
- Cover up your problem.
- Escape from your problem.
- Blame your problem on others.
Because we live in Adam’s shadow, we understand his wrong reactions. We get him, but even more unfortunate, our sense of shame tempts us to react like Adam, as it skews our theological thinking.
For example, you may isolate and not let anyone know about your struggle because you believe other folks are different from you. This misguided perspective is sloppy theology. “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and even if your friends are believers, they still sin occasionally (1 John 1:7-10).
Also, if you are struggling because of your sin, it seems counterintuitive to tell someone because of the fear they will further hurt you by their stares, harsh words or alienation. And you’re right; they may sin against you!
But if you choose to shut down and not share what is happening with you, it is possible that you will cut yourself off from a significant means of grace that God provides to help you through your transgressions.
Second Best Option
When folks are afraid to share their struggles with a close friend, but they genuinely want to talk to someone, they choose someone like me, a biblical counselor. I’m their short-term, temporary friend.
I wish it weren’t this way, but I do understand why someone would choose me over the folks who are closer to them, even those in their churches. But don’t punish yourself: regardless of the means that you use to find competent community, it’s imperative that you rip the fig leaves off and get real with at least one other person if you want help.
If you choose to cover, run, or blame, the consequences will be devastating to your soul. After a while, you’ll become dull of hearing (Hebrews 3:7). Eventually, you may have a hardened conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). The transgressions you felt early on will be more difficult to perceive because you did not respond correctly.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. – Hebrews 4:7-8
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14
Nine Tips When Sharing Your Shame
- Don’t tell everyone about your struggles.
- Share with those who are compassionate.
- Share with those who are competent.
- Share with those that you trust.
- Share with those who are quicker to listen than speak.
- Share with those who understand you.
- Share with those who aren’t quick in trying to change you.
- Share with those who are willing to share their struggles.
- Share with those who are willing to stick with you.
Whatever it takes, find help for your struggles. We need each other. A community is God’s way of helping His children. If you are a person that people do not bring their problems to, please find out why. What is going on with you that tempts people to look to other people to find help?
Also published on Medium.