It’s more than guilt.
Guilt says, “I have done something bad.”
Shame says, “I am bad.”
It’s more than embarrassment.
Embarrassment says, “Others disapprove of what I’ve done.”
Shame says, “Others disapprove of me.”
Shame is the soul crushing weight of believing “I am worthless. I have nothing of value to offer, so no one values me. I am unlovable. I deserve this status, and there is nothing I can do to change it.”
Sometimes we believe shame because other people treated us as worthless instead of showing us love. Sometimes we believe shame because we’ve made decisions we regret. Decisions that hurt us and hurt others. Many times it’s both the choices of others and our own choices which have convinced us that our feelings of shame are true.
When I was a kid growing up in church I didn’t understand Easter. Easter made me feel bad. I believed Jesus lived a perfect life to prove that it was possible and show me how I should be doing better. I thought Jesus had to die because I was so bad, he had to suffer so horribly because I was so horrible, and God brought him back to life because it wasn’t fair for him to suffer forever when he didn’t do anything wrong.
But now, after studying the Bible, I know I didn’t understand.
Jesus didn’t live to shame us.
He lived to connect with us.
Jesus didn’t die to shame us.
He died as the ultimate expression of his (and God’s) love for us.
Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to shame us.
He beat death at its own game so nothing could ever have the power to take us away from him again.
Everything about his life, his death, and his resurrection communicates that he loves and values us more than we ever thought possible.
More than is possible for us to love and value each other.
There’s a reason why “the ultimate sacrifice” is one person giving their life so another can live. There’s a reason why our highest understanding of love is for one person to use their life for the benefit of another instead of their self. There’s a reason why all our love stories involve deep, personal sacrifice. Why we value those who show value to others, and why we are repulsed by the kind of selfishness and greed that views other humans as objects to be used and discarded.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”Jesus in the Gospel of John 15: 12-14
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”John 3: 16-17
You can’t think of a love story that tops someone devoting their life to your benefit, sacrificing themselves for you, valuing you above their own comfort and safety, and defeating all your enemies to ensure your protection.
There’s a reason why we, why you, long to be loved and valued like that.
We know we can never deserve it, and that’s part of the story. If we deserved that kind of sacrifice it wouldn’t be sacrifice, and it wouldn’t be love.
No, we need to be fully known and still have someone choose to love us. All the things that shame holds up and says, “See! The evidence of worthlessness!” We need someone to look us in the eyes, smile, and say, “I see, and I choose to love you anyway.”
They say love is blind, but real love sees everything and doesn’t ever change it’s mind.
Jesus sees the evidence of shame, chooses to love us anyway, and then gives us the evidence of his love: his life for us, his death for us, and Easter – his refusal to be separated from us by anything ever again.
“For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”Romans 8:38-39 TLB
Now when I notice I feel shame I have evidence of my value that cannot be defeated. I choose to believe that there is nothing I can do, or fail to do, nothing anyone can do to me, or fail to do for me, that can change the way Jesus loves me or the value he assigned to me through his life, death, and resurrection.
Once, I lived in shame – convinced that I was worthless and deserved all my suffering, but Jesus changes everything and now I am known, valuable, protected, and loved!
For a little extra check out Romans 8:31-39 in The Living Bible translation.