Guilt vs. Shame

downloadI’m reading a book called Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown right now. It’s a good book so far, and she has some great stuff to say. Right now, I reading about the difference between guilt and shame. It’s been useful, because I didn’t understand the distinction between these two concepts very clearly.

Guilt looks at a situation where you come up short of the standards you hold in your life and say ‘I did wrong’ or ‘I came up short there’.

Shame looks at those situations and says ‘I’m a horrible person’ or ‘I’m such a loser’.

Guilt is useful only insofar as it makes us aware of our need for the mercy that God so willingly gives us when we fall short, and the grace which empowers us to live a life closer to the one Jesus calls us to live.

Shame is wholly destructive, and leads us to believe that we don’t deserve the mercy and grace that God wants to share with us.

Brown makes the case that using shame to correct behavior is completely counter-productive in parenting, managing, teaching, or any other leadership situation.

I couldn’t agree more. We are all children of God, and we inherently all have worth.

Instead of calling people to live up to the standard of following Jesus, to the calling that God extends to us as partners in the ever expanding nature of his Kingdom, shame attacks their very self worth.

It’s an effective trick.

That must be why Satan likes it so much.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tells Eve that she has no worth if she doesn’t eat the apple. “…as soon as you eat it…you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

If you don’t eat that apple, you’re going to stay a loser. Shame on you if you don’t eat that apple.

When Jesus was at the end of his 40 day fast, Satan came to Jesus and gave him several challenges. The first two started the same way: “If you are the Son of God…” (See Matthew 4:1-11)

Unlike the response he gets in the garden, Jesus does not let shame manipulate him. He looks to the guidance and standards given by God in the scriptures and avoids the trap.

Shame is still a favorite tool of our enemy today. When you find yourself devaluing the inherent worth you have as a person, adjust this internal monologue with what God says about us.

That you are beautifully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:13-15)

That God greatly values you. (Luke 12:6-7)

That nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)

It’s okay if you see areas in your life that do not yet measure up to the life God has called you to live, but don’t think that’s where your self worth comes from. Those feelings of guilt are simply there to point you back to the one that says he is working in us, and won’t quit until the work is done. (Philippians 1:6)

The Weapons of War

You’ve heard Isaiah 54:17a: “no weapon forged against you will prevail”. But many Christians have been martyred, by guns or swords or lions or various other methods. So what is God talking about?

First, I think perhaps he is revealing that, as a whole, God’s people will never be wiped out. Despite fierce persecution in the first 4 centuries of Christianity, we’re a billion+ strong now.

But I also think there’s another aspect of this.

Jesus alludes to it in Matthew 10:28: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. “

Jesus is like, ‘Guns and swords? Don’t even worry about those. They can only kill the part of you that’s going to die anyways.’

I think the real weapons that our enemy has forged against us are greed and lust and self-pity and hate and fear; among many others.

But the reason these weapons are not supposed to affect us is because Jesus makes us immune. His joy is stronger than depression. His peace can’t even be understood, much less defeated.

It’s when our life is “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3) that we become completely untouchable to the weapons of the enemy.

We live in the cross fire. Bullets of selfish thoughts and actions are always heading our way. People living without Jesus are riddled with holes from these attacks. I think a lot of Christians are, too - when they drag their world-proof vest behind them in the mud instead of wearing it.

Paul is pretty clear about this in Romans 13:13-14: “Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Only in Jesus are you immune to the weapons of the devils warfare. Stay in him. Don’t try to do it yourself. There are no medals of honor to be won in heaven, because Jesus already won them.