Dealing with Shame

Each branch of Christianity deals with shame in a slightly different way.

Shame is one of the core sources of our misery. Shame is especially core for those who were raised in fundamentalist churches. If you were the child of an elder then multiply that by two. If you were the child of a preacher, then multiply by ten. Any situation where you have to look good is a situation that is rife with potential shame.

Shame is illustrated in the wonderful story of Eve, the serpent and Adam. After they had eaten of the fruit, they made clothing and hid themselves from God. They wanted to disappear. When you feel you want to disappear, or are angry that others are making you want to disappear, you are dealing with that age old issue of shame.

The apostle Paul, who claimed he had been one of the most obsessive Jewish leaders, keeping all of the strictest traditions, and who must have struggled with major shame, was the first to say Jesus took all our shame upon the cross, and shared with us his glory (the opposite of shame).

Each tradition has strengths and weaknesses.

In Pentecostal churches the strength is in physically feeling the love of God, rather than just having an intellectual understanding of God. But there is a strong temptation to hear special words from God. There is the feeling that if I have a special communion with God, then surely my shame has been diminished. I am important.

In Calvinist churches there is an emphasis on having been chosen. God reveals to you if you are one of the chosen. If you are, then all your shame is taken away. God is worshiped as all powerful. Nothing can resist the power of God.

In Churches of Christ there is an emphasis on discovering all the laws for the church today. If the early worship services can be reproduced today, then we have passed the test that God has set before us. We have deciphered the code and we are the true children of God. All others are imposters.

In the Catholic tradition there are two avenues of dealing with shame. Either one relies on the fact that the Mother Church will preserve us, or one relies on the holiness of dedicating oneself to a discipline. If I can keep a vow or perform difficult rituals on a regular basis, then I must be holy and free of shame.

In the more liberal churches, there is an emphasis on doing good, and defending the defenseless, depending on which group is in vogue at the time.

In the more upper class churches there is an emphasis on being respectable.

But the great emphasis in almost all churches¬†(especially the holiness churches) is in doing good, which can hardly be argued with. My only argument is that we tend to get the strong message to do good in order to deal with our shame. It doesn’t work. No matter how much good we do, we will still have our shame that we carry around.

This is one reason I don’t like the phrase: “Find peace inside yourself.” No. Inside myself I find shame. I am no different from Adam and Eve and all the others on the face of the earth. The apostle Paul appealed to God to take away his shame. If only we heard that from the pulpit.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Manipulation, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dealing with Shame

  1. hank says:

    LOL, that’s a stupid article…

  2. Snowbrush says:

    My friend, I am glad to have found you. Can you refer me to a post or posts in which you tell a little of your personal story?

  3. MJ says:

    What is the answer then? How does one rid himself or herself of the shame they feel inside? How exactly does God take away out shame, and leave us without that feeling anymore?

    • Christianity teaches that Christ takes our shame upon the cross, and we exchange our shame for Christ’s righteousness and glory. It is a gift that is difficult to receive, but when we do, meditating on it is beautiful.

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