“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Aren’t you ashamed?”
“Shame. Shame. Everybody knows your name.”
These phrases were part of my childhood. I’m not looking for sympathy here; it’s just a fact. Usually, they were used by my parents in a joking manner. Occasionally, however, they were used as a genuine inquiry or correction, and not only by my parents.
I’m not a fan of it. I’m also not a fan of its partner guilt. Are you familiar with their work? You do or say something you shouldn’t have. You regret having done or said the thing. Guilt settles in and makes you feel horrible. Shame arrives to finish the job.
I don’t believe we should make ourselves or others feel ashamed or guilty. But I do believe in accountability and taking ownership of our behaviors. I believe in feeling conviction not condemnation.
What’s the difference between feeling guilty and feeling convicted?
I’m so glad you asked. When I first dedicated my life to the Lord, I was a bit confused about this as well. Because the initial actions are the same in both cases. We do or say something wrong. That happens in both situations. But here’s where the paths diverge. In the guilty option, we recognize our mistake and begin to beat ourselves up over it. Shame attaches itself and further stokes the fire of humiliation and regret. We can spiral as we replay what we said or did over and over. We can convince ourselves that even if we apologize, nothing will change. When (or if) we do apologize, we may remain persuaded that this mistake will never go away. It’ll always be a part of us now. We’ve got a mark against us that can never be erased.
In the guilty option, part of the problem may be because we’re relying on ourselves and the other person (or people) to forgive us and let us off the hook. But what if we went to the Lord first and asked for His forgiveness before we spoke to anyone else?
In the conviction model, we still say or do something wrong. We recognize it, not because we begin to beat ourselves up and condemn ourselves. No. In this instance, it is the Holy Spirit as a representative of God who will nudge us. Let me state this clearly: God’s conviction is a call to turn it around and begin anew.
In my life, this is typically how it goes down. I’ll be thinking of saying or doing something. I’ll feel a tug within me steering me in a different direction. I ignore this gentle prompting and go ahead with my initial plan. Chaos on some level ensues. When the dust settles, I look up to the heavens and say, “I know. I know. I should have listened.”
In the early days of my faith journey, I would still feel some guilt and shame. That’s perfectly natural. And that’s the problem.
We’re not called to move in our natural reactions. We’re called to move in spiritual responses.
What does that mean? Well, it’s natural to feel bad if we say or do something wrong. But when we want to make amends, we need to ask the Lord for guidance. It’s taken me a long time, and I haven’t gotten it down 100%, but I’m learning that the Creator of the whole universe might just know a thing or two more about life than me.
So, you messed up. Now what?
In my case, there were usually a bunch of red flags displayed before the mistake was made. I just chose to ignore them. Once in a while, I do get blindsided, but not often. The point is, I made the mistake. Now what, if anything, should I do to make it better or right? Is it even possible?
Here’s where taking it out of our hands and putting it into His makes all the difference. I may have the instinct to apologize right away. And it’s good to want to make amends quickly, to not let things fester and brew in the silences and separations. But sometimes God will call us to not say or do anything immediately. He is the only one who knows the hearts and minds of everyone, so though I may be ready to address the matter, the other party may not be.
You can’t make your attempt to make amends about you.
We made a mistake, and we feel bad. We don’t like feeling that way. We want to stop feeling that way as soon as possible. But what if the other person isn’t ready to receive your apology? You get ahead of God’s timing, expecting a resolution or restoration, and end up hurt or disappointed.
Now, you must be prepared when God does tell you to apologize, there is still no guarantee the other person will accept and forgive. You’ve got to be ok with that. (It’s not easy.) But your response and your effort are in alignment with God. That’s what truly matters. The other person may (or may not) come around. There may (or may not) be a reconciliation. But when you follow His lead, you can hold your head high. Free from guilt and shame. Yes, you don’t deny the mistake. But you’ve asked God to forgive you. You’ve gone to those you may have wronged and asked the same.
Now it’s time to forgive yourself.
This is an area of struggle for me. I like to believe I’m quick to forgive others. But when it comes to forgiving myself, I have a difficult time. It is only by the grace of God that I’m improving in this area. The Lord has shown me that when I hold onto it, I’m not trusting Him and I’m being selfish.
Yes, because the focus is on me. It’s about my mistake. It’s about me. It’s all about me. I become self-absorbed. Typically, we think of being self-absorbed as self-minded, thinking more of yourself than you should. But you can be self-absorbed in a negative way too. You’re obsessed with focusing on all you did or said wrong. What’s the center of your attention in both examples? You are.
But what about those who don’t seem to acknowledge right or wrong and live in a place of my truth and your truth?
If we don’t know someone personally, all we need to do is look at our devices to see people who seem to have abandoned what were once universally agreed upon as basic truths and distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil. In my opinion, this is a reckless way to live. But it doesn’t surprise the Lord. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:17-20)
The Bible is indeed a love letter to those who want to know Him. But to those who willfully turn away, it’s a very stern warning. The part which grabbed me was “their glory is their shame.” Wow. That’s heavy. But think about it. How many videos have you seen of people reveling in doing the wrong thing? They’re convinced freedom and liberty means doing whatever you want without fear of consequence. I pray they realize the error of their ways before it’s too late. I honestly don’t want anyone’s destiny to be destruction. How about you?
God warned us there would be people who reject Truth and embrace and excuse all bad behaviors. Yet we’re surprised when we encounter them. But it should always be shocking. May we never get so comfortable with evil being seen as good that we don’t speak out against it. May we never get quiet and ashamed of believing in the Lord. Check this out:
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
I remember when I first heard this verse, it stopped me in my tracks. We deny Jesus now, He’ll deny us then. Yes, contemporary culture is making it more difficult to speak out, to proclaim our love for Him. We get censored, shadow banned, shut down, screamed over, taken away. But we can’t stop. Because in that screaming crowd there may be one who can still be reached. Or maybe that one won’t be in the crowd, but they’ll be on the sidelines listening to everything. You never know. But God does.
And what are we so ashamed about anyway? Why do we care what people think? Check this out:
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11)
If you believe what it says, He’s got your back. Stand tall and share His love to this crazy world. And be sure to let conviction fall and change you when you go the wrong way. Check this out:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)
These verses struck me. We may not realize this, but if we don’t confess our sin, if we don’t bring our mistake to the Lord, that sin festers within us. As it says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away..” and “day and night your hand was heavy on me…” Conviction ignored will start to feel like a heavy hand on us. God is merciful, but He demands accountability. He already knows all the mistakes we’ll ever make. The point of confession is to release us and bring us back to wholeness. We can’t get there without Him.
God loves us, but He hates sin in any form. And there is a time when this world will come to an end. His judgement will be rendered on everyone. Check this out:
And when He (Jesus) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)
The way I see it, there’s a day coming (and no one knows when) when we will all be judged for everything. Those who willfully stayed in a place of self-absorption and unrepentance, rejecting Him, will be held eternally accountable for that choice. I’m certain there will be judgements against me as well. Yet I know this one thing, if I believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, my end will not be the same as theirs. I pray many will come to see He is the Way the Truth and the Life before it is too late.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Ask His Holy Spirit to guide you and convict you daily, so you may avoid the pitfalls of this world and live your life unashamed.
Look forward to hearing from you.