Friday, February 04, 2011

From Shame to Honor

What do you do with your shame? What do you do with those experiences and deeds of the past that leave you ashamed? Ignore it? Stuff it? Relive it? Fuel it? Find atonement for it?

Whether you are feeling ashamed for the sins you committed, or for the sins committed against you, there is a way to move from shame to honor. To feel shame is to feel dishonored. How do you cover your shame with regained honor? It's not an easy road, but it includes wisdom. 

The Eastern world from which we received our Scriptures is a honor/shame culture. It is very important to attain honor, and it is despicable to be shamed - especially in public. You want to attain honor for yourself, more importantly for your family, and especially for your tribe or nation. And if you are shamed, you must work to regain your honor. If you bring shame on your family, you have committed a terrible offense. 

The wise inherit honor,
but fools get only shame

Whosoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
but whosoever heeds correction is honored.

You can see here the great emphasis on getting honor and avoiding shame, and it's connection to wisdom and folly. Getting wisdom is the way to attain honor and avoid shame. Wisdom is also the path out of shame, it's the way to regain honor. 

Most everyone carries around within them stuff of which they are ashamed. Are temptation is to hide it from others, to bury it as a secret. A dark secret. A deep secret of which we are constantly aware, working to make sure no one finds out about it. Sadly, this adds power to the shame, guaranteeing it's control over your life. This is a foolish choice, it's an easy choice, it seems the most natural. But it adds to the shame. 

It is shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret. 

Don't you want to be free from the shackles of your shame? Don't you want to let loose those heavy chains of dark secrets? 

Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves. 

In seeking to honor others above yourselves, you must first do some work within. You must first bring honor to yourself - not for your own sake, but for those that your life is attached to. You seek wisdom and honor for yourself in order that you may act wisely and honorably to others, to lift them up. This is love that loosens the shackles of shame and shrugs off bit by bit the chains of dark secrets.

Guilt is the state of having committed an offense, violation, sin, wrongdeed, a crime - and thus having a feeling of responsibility or remorse for that action. 

Shame is the painful, embarrassing feeling of having done or experienced something dishonorable, improper, foolish, wrong, sinful. 

The remedy to guilt and shame is grace. Guilt requires you to receive grace from the one you offended. All sins are against a person, but also against God. The solution to your guilt is to receive forgiveness, to seek forgiveness, to work to make amends. Shame requires you to forgive yourself, to give grace to yourself.

The wise action, the honorable action is to give and receive grace. This does not mean that the sin wasn't damaging, or that the violation wasn't vile. It means that it won't be held against you anymore. It means that you are letting your feeling of responsibility drive you to making amends instead of empty remorse.

It is foolish and dishonorable to withhold grace from yourself, to not forgive yourself. You add to your shame by refusing to let go of the shame, by not sharing your secret with a trusted friend, mentor or pastor. Even sharing your secret with God is a good, wise start. God can be trusted with your secret.

We believe that in Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave God has forgiven the sins of the world. Your sins are forgiven, he has extended grace to you for your guilt and shame. We get to decide - will I receive this grace or not? Our choice - a powerful choice. Through Jesus we can begin again, guilt atoned for, shame covered and removed.

It is something we believe.
What we believe shapes how we live.

What you believe about shame drives how you live. 

What you believe about grace shapes how you live. 

Oh Lord, I believe!
Help me in my unbelief...

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