I think for many of us it is easy to picture an authority figure towering over us saying those words, “Shame on you.” Perhaps it words like, “worthless,” “disgusting,” “what is wrong with you?” You know it when you heard it…You can feel your shoulders slump and your head bow as those words hit you.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about shame and guilt. Here are a couple of thoughts that I keep coming back to:

  • Although we sometimes use the words interchangeably, they are different. In its simplest terms, guilt says, “I did something bad,” shame says “I am bad.”
  • When you study various cultures in the context of missions, you’ll learn that some cultures are ‘guilt-based, some are ‘shame-based.’ For example, the vast majority of gospel presentation in the States deals with guilt: “There is a judge, he rightfully finds you guilty, but agrees to pay your penalty.” There is a tendency to downplay the impact of shame.
  • I believe shame and guilt are the natural outworking of our sin nature.
  • More importantly, I believe Jesus came to set us free from both shame and guilt.
  • I think it maybe is helpful to point out someone’s guilt or shame, as a means to lead them to a place where they can find freedom.
  • I believe guilt and shame are never to be used to motivate or influence people’s behaviour. Whether it is parents with children or leaders in the church. If Jesus came to set people free from something, why would we try to place it back on them?

Like I said, just some things running through my brain recently. Love to hear your thoughts.

[the picture about is of the Cork City Goal (Jail)]