Shame is the enemy of authenticity.
I had never been kissed before.
I was a scrawny little 14 year old girl who knew nothing of love or relationships or kissing. All I knew is that I grew up in the purity ring culture, a culture that (maybe unintentionally) shamed young women when they ever “went too far” with their boyfriends. It was a culture that “kissed dating goodbye” and waited until marriage for sex. Though I still believe in some of these things (like saving sex for marriage… yes, Mary, I am such a prude, but a proud prude), the purity ring culture brought a lot of shame to me.
Because my first kiss ended up “going too far.” And I don’t even know how.
For the sake of privacy for others involved, I will keep the details here minimal. But it’s not really about the kiss or the going too far with it. It’s the deep, inexplicable level of shame that took root in my life after it. A shame that was the reason behind all the masks I wore over the next years in my life. It was the shame that kept me from going to a deeper level in my friendships, keeping them at a safe distance so that they did not know too much about me. So they would not change their opinions of me.
I felt dirty.
Like a fake.
Like a hypocrite.
I felt wrong.
I felt disgusting.
I was supposed to be the good one. I was supposed to be a spiritual leader at my school and at my church. I was supposed to be pure. But I wasn’t.
It was this shame that led to a downward spiral of hidden sin in my life for years.
It was the shame that kept me hidden from the presence of God. That kept me from cultivating an authentic kind of intimacy with Him. Because deep down I was scared that He would change His opinion of me, too.
Isn’t it interesting how shame is one of the enemy’s greatest tools in his effort to keep us from a deep relationship with God? Isn’t this what happened in the garden?
Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and they “hid because they were afraid.” (See Genesis 3)
Shame made them hide. Want to cover up. Shame made me hide, too. It was in the name of shame that I bore the masks of academic success and spiritual leadership and goodness.
Shame is the enemy of authenticity.
If you don’t already read Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability and courage, you should. I won’t pretend to know more than her on this topic, but I wanted to make sure you all know at least one thing.
God hates shame. Because it keeps us from Him.
However, that does not mean we should pretend we don’t feel ashamed sometimes, because if we are honest, we all feel it at times. It just means we cannot stay there.
We cannot sit in shame too long. A healthy brokenness over sin and mistakes that leads us to come to the feet of Jesus and confess is good. Shame…shame is not.
Shame makes us look down when we should be looking up.
Shame keeps us hyper-focused on self and who we are or are not instead of looking at Jesus, the one who washes sin away and makes us new.
Shame keeps us hidden in darkness, but the Light of the World exposes and brings to the light.
Shame tells us we are not worthy, but Jesus makes us worthy.
King David knew something about this. He was handpicked by God to rule the people of Israel. He was set apart, chosen because he was a “man after God’s own heart.”
And David screwed up. Bad. He saw another man’s wife bathing, and took her. He forced her into sex with Him and then had her husband murdered to cover up his mistake.
Shame covers up.
But in Psalm 51, the psalm traditionally attributed to this experience in David’s life, it doesn’t sound like shame to me. It sounds like David’s heart was broken over the magnitude of his sin, a brokenness that led him back to God, not away from Him. At some point, David moved from shame and the need to cover up to a longing to tell God about his sin and shame.
Shame leads us away from God. Brokenness brings us back to him.
Can we read Psalm 51 together?
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
God may not like shame. But he "does not despise a broken and contrite heart."
What a prayer to pray when we feel ashamed.
We can ask God for mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
We can confess the sin we have committed.
We can ask him to make us clean.
We can still praise even after we have done wrong.
We can ask that God deliver us from our shame.
We can be broken over our sin.
And we can even use our story to teach others about Him.
It is this acknowledgement, this confession that leads to healing.
God's presence is safe. He hears the confessions of people all over the world. And He promises forgiveness. He removes the masks we wear over sin, and then covers us with the blood of Jesus. His kindness will lead you to repentance.
He won't see you differently no matter what you have done. But He does see Jesus in you. You are forgiven. There is no need to hide. He wants our full hearts, shame and all. He wants our confessions. He wants to bring spiritual wholeness and healing, but we need to open the door for Him to come in.
He is not going to love you any less. Just simply pray Psalm 51. Mean every word.
And if you are too ashamed to pray that, pray the Jesus Prayer. And pray it often.
It goes like this: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner."
And even if you try to hide and cover up, God still knows. And guess what? He still loves you.
Break your heart wide open and allow the forgiving One in. Allow shame to melt away in the loving kindness of God. Let his grace change you.
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
I was wrong. So wrong.
I am sorry.
For the wrong I have done.
For hiding and covering it up.
I was afraid that you would not love me anymore.
But your kindness has led me to confess and repent.
I know your love never dies.
I know that you will forgive my sin.
I know that you will wash me clean.
Help me to live exposed in your presence.
Shine light on things hidden.
And help me to show myself the kind of grace that you show me.
In Jesus' Name,
Creative Journaling Prompt
What thoughts or actions have you had/done of which you are most ashamed?
Write each one down. One by one.
Then take each thing and pray through Psalm 51 with that thought or action.