I have a neighbor that I consider to be caring and kind. Our community calls him wild because he has a long hair and a long beard. He rides a motorcycle and walks to town with a staff. This man is never still and is known as our neighborhood watchman. Just recently he told us his cancer had returned and he didn’t want treatment. He did not want his family to watch him die.
Upon our discussion, I learned that he felt he was too bad for God to forgive. He thought if he started praying now, God would think he was using Him. His past decisions are haunting him, and he carries that shame.
Since our talk, I have thought about what shame is and what the Bible says about it, and I want to share what I have learned with you.
What Is Shame?
Shame is that feeling we carry when we think we are bad. It’s the long-term effect of living with your guilt.
Guilt and shame are similar feelings, but different. Guilt is when you do something wrong and feel bad about it. Once you rectify the situation, your guilt is gone. Shame stays with you. You know you have done sinful things, but you feel there is no way to make them right.
When a woman is unable to conceive, she may feel shame. She might feel there is something wrong with her or she has done something to cause her this pain.
When you have put on a few extra pounds, you may feel shame. Your extra pounds could be a result of life changes, health problems, or depression. Therefore, you don’t believe you can change.
Maybe you have made some bad decisions in your life and feel there is no forgiveness for you. You believe you are a bad person, and nothing can change that. Those feelings are shame.
Shame will isolate us from the world and from our God. When we isolate from God, we begin pointing fingers. We want to blame others for the shame we feel. We may even blame God for our less-than-great lives. Then we begin to feel there is nothing we can do to change our situation. This vicious cycle is exactly what Satan is wanting. Only God can pick us up and place us in the life He wants for us.
Mary C. Lamia, a clinical psychologist wraps this up well. She says “Where we will likely have an urge to admit guilt, or talk with others about a situation that left us with guilty feelings, it is much less likely that we will broadcast our shame.”
Bible Verses about Shame
While shame can take hold and control us, there is a hope that only God can extend to us.
The Bible has numerous verses about shame and how we can let go of our shame. This sampling can help us realize the consequences of shame, how God will not hold shame over our heads, and the love God has for His children.
“I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame” (Psalm 119:31).
“I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be respondent” (Psalm 132:18).
“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Should We Feel Ashamed of our Sin?
The quick answer is yes. Anything we do that displeases our Lord is sin. Our sin should make us feel embarrassed, guilty, and even humiliated. All these emotions should make us ashamed and feel the need to repent and turn away.
When Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians, he says “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame” (2 Cor. 15:34). The Christians at Corinth knew in their hearts what was right and what was wrong. Paul is pleading with them to repent and turn from their sin. The last words of this verse speak to the shame the Corinthians should have been feeling.
We should feel the same shame. God will always lead us in the right direction if we just let him. It is to our shame when we ignore Him. When we stop feeling ashamed of our sin, it is time to revaluate our relationship with God.
Christians are not perfect, and we will sin. When we do, we should feel shame. That is our opportunity to listen to God and repent. If we do not, there is a serious consequence. We are kept from God. Our sin will create a divide that can only become wider and deeper. We must turn from our sin and ask God for forgiveness.
How Can We Move Past Shame When We Repent and Turn to Christ?
It is easy to say “Lord forgive me,” but it is harder to move past the shame and guilt our sin brings to us. So how do we move on? How do we let go when the shame tries to creep back into our lives?
First, we must realize that God is not bringing shame upon us. If you have repented of your sin, God has erased it from your life. He will not keep reminding you of what you did. Romans 8:1 says “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Secondly, we must remember that God doesn’t remember our sin. In Psalms 103, we learn that God has removed our sins as far as the east is to the west. If God can remove our sin that far, shouldn’t we?
Thirdly, we must understand that God did not send His son to die on a cross just so we could have eternal life. Jesus died for the sins of all people. That includes the sins we would commit in the future. The beautiful words in Isaiah 53:4-5 tell us that God provides healing for our everyday lives. They tell us that God took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Jesus was crucified for our sins; past, present, and future.
It is not easy to move on from shame, but it is possible. Dig into the Scriptures, be reminded of how much God loves you, and know that it is possible to live a life filled with love and joy after shame.
A Prayer to Let Go of Shame
My life has been taken over by shame and guilt. Your words in 1 John 1:9 tell me you are faithful to forgive my sins when I confess them. I ask now for your forgiveness because I have sinned against you. Cleanse me of this shame and make me whole again. Allow me to worship you freely and serve you humbly.
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Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, ministering alongside her husband as he pastors a rural church in West Virginia, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.