What must it have been like in the garden when Adam and Eve were living together in a world of perfection and they were completely exposed and not ashamed? This is such a hard concept to grasp. Can you honestly say you are completely exposed with yourself, God, and others and you are not ashamed? Do you know of any who can.
We live in a world that sets us up to hide. As young children we learn to feel shame as we experience being caught by others when we do something wrong. Shame upon shame is heaped upon us until we hide most of our guilt, doubt, and fear from ourselves, God, and others. Even we can’t face the destitution of our own shame. How could we ever expect God or any other human to understand the depth of our regrets, sorrows, heartache, and shame? We live disconnected, all the while striving to appear as if we are connected and have it all together. Even in our most connected relationship, it is miles from being truly intimate. We lie to ourselves about it, but deep down we know the truth – I cannot completely expose these imperfect aspects of self or I will be utterly rejected.
So, we lock those parts of our heart away to keep ourselves safe. We walk around in our world with a phony persona of one who has it all together. We know we are frauds. We know others are frauds. Yet, we know we can’t help others with their hidden self, otherwise we will have to come out of hiding ourselves. This is way too scary. After all, wasn’t it in our interactions with others that we learned to be ashamed? We stay hidden in our fears and continue in our complicit hiding from each other. And, we forfeit the very real connection we need with ourselves, God, and others.
Let’s distinguish shame from guilt. Guilt is the sorrow we should feel for something specific we’ve done to harm another. It lets us know when we’ve crossed a line from being loving and kind into harmful thoughts or behavior. But, just because we had an unkind thought does not mean we are unkind people. Shame is quite different.
Shame is not feeling bad because we hurt someone, which is guilt. Shame is feeling we are bad because we hurt them. Shame is focusing on the self and the propensity to do harmful things. It’s the result of not only doing things wrong, but knowing we keep doing wrong no matter how hard we try to stop. Shame also comes from not being able to reach standards that we set for ourselves or are set by others. So, it’s not just a result of falling repeatedly, but also not being able to reach some goal we think we should. So, how do we break free from shame and live in true freedom and transparency, at least with ourselves, God, and others who are safe?
Read Romans 7 and 8. Paul knew about the human condition. He suffered from it himself. But, because God did not want us to continue to hide in our shame, He gave Paul insight to share with the Romans, knowing we would eventually be the recipients of this message that sets us free. When we see that we have a sin nature operating in us, we can separate our thoughts and behavior, which are sinful and deserve death, from who we really are. We are new creatures in Christ. The old self, with a mind set on sin, died with Christ. The new self, with a mind set on the Spirit, was raised with Christ. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those we are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that is was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8: 1-3 (NIV)
We have freedom in Christ, if we will just believe it. If we will be honest with ourselves and God we will see we are safe. He will cleanse us and set us free from both guilt and shame. When we know we are safe with God, we will feel safe enough to be transparent with others who understand God’s grace.
Are you tired of hiding? Are you tired of feeling like a fraud? Are you longing for deep, intimate connections with others? Are you ready to be naked and unashamed? God’s waiting…