We all make mistakes as we journey through life. People shame us for these mistakes. It begins in childhood when our parents or elders scold us. It continues in school when our teachers rebuke us. Later on, employers or other people in positions of power berate us. While this is bad enough, it becomes infinitely worse when the chastisement is in the presence of others.
We all also sin as we journey through life. We try to hide our sinfulness because we believe that people will be disgusted with us if they ever found out. Unfortunately, they often do find out. Even more unfortunately, they make it their life’s mission to let everybody else find out, too, never mind that they might be doing pretty much the same themselves. Today, with social media and the internet’s global reach, people can shame us in front of millions, making us feel like we are being stripped naked before the whole world.
Regardless of how we are shamed and why, it is easy to become convinced we are bad people and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging, even by God. The deeper the shame, the greater the sense of self-loathing. So many of us detest ourselves so much, we condemn ourselves to a lifetime of misery. But the worst thing about buying into shame is that it can make us believe we are beyond redemption.
We are not. We never can be. As children of God, created in his image and likeness, we are inherently worthy, and even the worst sin cannot take that away. Especially because there is no sin so great, God cannot forgive us for it. Moses and David were both murderers, the latter an adulterer to boot; both found forgiveness. Paul was the equivalent of an ISIS leader; God forgave him too. But the enemy does not want us to believe this truth because he wants us to think we are too terrible to be saved. Why did Judas kill himself? It was probably because his sense of shame was so great that he felt he didn’t deserve salvation!
So, what do we do? How do we deal with shame? By coming out into the open. When we are ashamed of ourselves, our instinctive reaction is to hide, just like Adam and Eve did. But God went looking for them, and he will come looking for us. Let us not try to conceal ourselves but come out before him, trusting in his love and mercy and compassion. And just like he clothed Adam and Eve, taking away their shame, he will clothe us and take away our shame too.
God is looking for you at this very moment as you read this. Be courageous and come out of hiding. Even as you expose your soul to him in all its transparency, he will bring healing and wholeness to you. And if you are in a position of a leader—be it as a parent, an educator, a boss, or a pastor, or whatever—remember that correction is often not just needed but necessary. However, ensure you do this with kindness and love in the spirit that God himself would.