In the case of sin, Christ paid the penalty that we could not. In the case of shame, Christ lived the perfect life on our behalf thus securing our standing before a holy God. We are now loved and accepted for Christ’s sake and united to Him no matter what others may think of us or what we may think of ourselves. This may be easier said than done, which is why Nelson emphasizes the necessity of Christian community for healing from shame. We can’t do this alone. We need one another to be listening ears as we confess the shame we feel. We need patient friends who will support us as we learn to walk in freedom rather than fear.
Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame by Heather Davis Nelson, Crossway, 2016, 192 pages.
Shame: the feeling of “not good enough,” acccording to our own standard or our perception of someone else’s standard for us. It’s what keeps us from being honest about our own struggles, sins, and less-than-perfect moments. Fear of shame drives us to perfectionism in all areas of our lives, so there would be no imperfection for others to notice and judge. (pp. 57-58)
The word “shame” conjures up many memories for me – all unpleasant:
– Wondering if God could possibly forgive me again after committing the same sin yet again.
– Being mocked for looking different or dressing out of style.
– Being scolded for normal human failings like forgetting something or not making the wisest choice.
But the ones that haunt me the most are where I have been the one doling out the shame, and I long to lay these feelings to rest once and for all. But where do I go for help and healing from the shame that seems to be so pervasive?
In Unashamed, Heather Nelson brings the gospel to bear on the shame which we all know far too well. She begins by first making the crucial distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt relates to what I have done. In the case of sin, the Holy Spirit convicts, and the resulting godly grief produces repentance. Our response should then be to cling to the promise that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness because Christ died for those sins. Amen? Amen!
But what about shame? Shame is more complex because it relates to who I am more than what I have done. Yes, it can arise from condemnation over sin that has been confessed and repented of, but often I experience shame because the fall has taken its toll. In this case, “brokenness” is very apt and not just a politically correct way to avoid the word “sin.” I may forget. I may be socially awkward and physically clumsy.