Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Problem with Using Shame

Do not let me be put to shame

This phrase, or a variation of it, is repeated over and over in the Psalms.

     "I trust in You;
          do not let be put to shame." (Psalm 25:2)

     "Guard my life and rescue me;
          do not let me be put to shame." (Psalm 25:20)

     "In You, Lord, I have taken refuge;
          let me never be put to shame;
          deliver me in Your righteousness." (Psalm 31:1)

     "Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
          for I have cried out to You." (Psalm 31:17)

Those are just a few of the uses of it, I've noticed. The more times I've read it recently, the more I've been thinking about it.

Why this constant cry? What is the importance of it?

It starts with defining shame. We have to know what it is to know why it's so important. The best definition of shame I've found comes from Brene Brown:
"I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging - something we've experienced, done, or failed to do that makes us unworthy of connection." (

We live in a society where shame too often keeps us quiet, and where it is used as a way to attempt to change someone's behaviour.

When we're ashamed of something, we feel isolated, alone, disconnected, fearful of someone finding out. Shame is our enemy, Satan's, specialty.

Shame isn't something God uses. The psalmist could confidently pray for God not to let him be put to shame because he knew it wasn't from God. The psalmist was praying for protection against the schemes of our enemy.

I've been thinking about why God never uses shame and I've realized it's because shame attacks our identity. Shame attempts to label us based on "something we've experienced, done, or failed to do," to use Brene Brown's definition. It tells us we are wrong as people, puts down who God created us to be.

God doesn't label us by our past. He doesn't label us by our sin. He's made us His children and He wants us to identify ourselves this way. God sees us the way we were meant to be - the way can be because of Jesus' victory through the cross. He desires for us to live that, so He's not going to use shame to label us and attack our identity.

When the psalmist prays to not be put to shame, he's seeking protection from the attacks of the enemy. In the psalms where these words are used, the psalmist also talks about trusting God and finding refuge in Him. That's our best defense against the shaming tactics of the enemy.

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