June 14, 2004

No Shame - Part 2
"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my 
groaning all day long" (Tehillim / Psalms 32:3).

Last week I mentioned how I had been struggling with 
shame in my own life. You may or may not have noticed 
that while I wrote about how a recent experience 
helped me with my feelings of shame, I never got into 
the details of it.

Feelings of shame may arise due to our doing shameful 
acts, others telling us that we have done shameful 
acts whether we really have or not, or both. The 
feelings and effects of shame are always the same: we 
want to cover up or we want to run away and hide. 
However we deal with it, we mustn't let others see us 
or associate us with that thing that we are shameful 
of.

In my case I was dealing with the receiving of very 
heavy criticism. While I knew there was some truth in 
what was told me, I was still working through the 
content of the things said. I wasn't clear yet as to 
what was accurate, what things I needed to address, 
what was coming out of personality differences, what 
was based on misunderstanding, and so on.

It was a bit of a revelation to me to discover that I 
was burdened by something beyond just the bare facts 
of the situation. I was doubting myself. I was angry 
and confused. As a result my first tendency was to run 
away and hide, so that I didn't have to deal with this 
at all. I didn't want anyone to think I was bad or 
incompetent. So instead of dealing with the situation 
head on, I wanted to cover it over. I wanted to run 
away. I was ashamed.

I don't know about you, but I think for some of us 
receiving criticism is like having someone gazing at 
our nakedness. We feel exposed so we want to protect 
ourselves by covering up. Notice that we can be in 
this state whether we have really done wrong or not. 
Shame is so destructive, because it prevents us from 
facing the truth, whatever that truth might be.

Actually we never have to feel shame. God has provided 
the remedy. Just as God provided effective covering 
for Adam and Eve who desperately tried to cover their 
own shame with fig leaves, so God has provided us with 
adequate covering through the Messiah.

According to the Psalm read earlier, David knew the 
agony of trying to hide his sin. But when he came to 
the place where he could openly admit his wrong, he 
was free:

"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" (Tehillim / Psalms 32:5).

We never need to hide. Even when we do serious wrong, 
the only way to experience true forgiveness and 
freedom from shame is to bring ourselves and our life 
situations into the open. If we would allow ourselves 
to see ourselves as we really are, and look to God to 
cover us, then we will be free from shame.