Sitting in the hallway, watching the lines of students evacuate the building, I felt miserable. I knew I had made a terrible mistake, and that was now playing out in the wasting of all hundreds of people’s time. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any lower, a professor walking by me with the most disgusted look on her face, turned and said to me, “I hope you’re proud of yourself for ruining this day!” I don’t think that even 10 snickers bars would have helped me get away from this day.
I had been working in the Choir office that morning, and received specific instructions from the choir director that if a package came, I was to bring it to his office and set it next to his desk. When the package finally came, I picked it up with the keys to the director’s office and headed over for the delivery. The box was fairly heavy and bulky enough where it obscured my vision somewhat. When I arrived at his office, I decided not to set the box down, but to wedge it between the wall and my hip as I pulled the keys out of my pocket and opened the door with my other hand.
The door opened, I set the box on the ground, my task was complete, and then I heard it. An alarm, ringing throughout the entire building with lights flashing. As I went to investigate, sudden horror hit me. When I wedged the box up against the wall, it somehow pulled down or activated the fire alarm.
Now as a side note, I had a choice at that moment to go own up to what happened or to sprint away and no one would be the wiser. I decided to face the music, and so there I found myself, sitting in the hallway watching the entire building evacuate while multiple fire trucks pulled up to the building in response to the alarm. I was ashamed, wanted to crawl up into a ball and hide in a dark closet.
It is incredible how powerful shame can be. According to New Jersey psychologist Michael Lewis, it is “the quintessential emotion”. Shame can lead to feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy, worthlessness, and inferiority to others. And when these types of feelings engulf someone, it can lead to all sorts of destructive behaviors like attacking others, running away from our problems, or in extreme circumstances even murder or suicide.
No one enjoys feeling shame. Yet as we look around our world, one of the most used tactics to get what we want, or to get people to do what we want, is by using Shame! Think about it.
- A rich person shaming a poor person to encourage him/her to make better choices.
- The poor person shaming a rich person because they want them to soften their hearts and be more benevolent.
- A person of one political party trying to shame the opposite party’s view with the hope that they will change their mind, or at least be more quiet about their political views.
- A person making fun of someone they don’t like.
- A person spreading gossip about someone they are mad at.
- An athlete who makes a good play, standing over their opponent in a dominance posture.
- Someone trying to feel better about what they have, by belittling someone who is a step down from them.
I could go on and on. Shame is RAMPANT. Take an honest look around! It is something that no one wants to experience personally, yet it is precisely the thing that we use in order to manipulate others. Shame is, by and large, our weapon of choice, being wielded against others and leaving unrealized destruction in it’s wake.
I do not understand why we do this, or why we don’t connect the dots of… if I don’t like X, then the people around me probably don’t like X either.
But Jesus came to do a new thing. There is no shame in the love of Christ.
- Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not shame them.
- Jesus tells us if a Roman soldier forces you to carry his pack 1 mile, carry it 2 instead.
- Jesus commands us to forgive those who persecute us.
- Jesus reaches out to the tax-collectors who are taking advantage of people, instead of shaming them.
- Jesus shows value to the prostitutes whom he disagrees with their life-style.
- He offers living water to the woman at the well who has divorced 5 times.
He came to do something different. And the ultimate example was shown on the cross, which represents the most shameful experience anyone could go through. Stripped naked, whipped, spit on, and nailed to a wooden beam like a piece of meat to rot in the sun until you die, the shame involved there is overwhelming… yet Jesus does not fight against it. Jesus doesn’t wield shame as his weapon against his accusers. Jesus humbly accepts this shame put upon him, asks the Father to forgive those who did this to him, dies, and then defeats sin, death, and shame by rising from the grave three days later.
Jesus wants us to fight against shame, not with more shame… but with love. So how do you do that? Here are 3 easy ways.
- Understand your identity in Christ
Christ came to set you free from shame and guilt when he took your sins on the cross. So if anyone comes against you or tries to harm you with shame, you are able to stand in the freedom that Christ has given you. You have right standing with God. Period. In fact, Romans 5 says you can now REJOICE in sufferings because of the hope that you have in Jesus, who has defeated the death that sin produces. Romans 10:11 says that “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
- Fight shame with love
Jesus shows us that love will defeat shame, EVERY TIME. Perhaps you won’t see it in the moment, but you’re just going to have to trust Him on this! The best thing we can do in a conflict with others is to begin engaging them in a loving conversation. Go to the person in whose political opinions you disagree with and engage in a loving and humble conversation. Don’t engage from a position of dominance, judgment or shame, but go from a position of humility, considering others as better than yourself, and seek to truly understand them and express your ideas to them. If you display that you VALUE them throughout the conversation, then chances are very high that you will be able to find common ground with them and perhaps you can actually accomplish something together.
- Extend Grace abundantly
Going back to when I was sitting in the hallway, fire alarm going off, people were passing me sneering; I sure would have loved someone to sit down and say, “Hey, you made a mistake but it’s no big deal. Sure it’s an inconvenience for me but I can get through it. I forgive you. Let’s go play some basketball later”. In the midst of someone’s shame, don’t shame them even more; extend grace and love to them. Do the opposite of what our natural reaction would be. Even if their action is something we absolutely disagree with, we choose to stand in the truth of who God is, and follow the example of what God does for us.
If we can begin to identify the times we are shaming others, and surrender that desire to Jesus, then I think that we can make HUGE strides in the world around us. Jesus never intended us to be brought down by shame or to bring anyone else down with shame. But shame is sneaky and hides in our lives. So let’s call it out, and begin learning how to REALLY follow Jesus when it comes to people who live and think differently than us. Let us start declaring that it is “in GOD we trust” to overcome the obstacles in our lives, and quit saying “in Shame we trust” to overcome those obstacles. When we do this, Christ’s love will conquer the shame and guilt in the world around us, THROUGH our obedience to our loving Savior.