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Shame That Just Won't Stop

There are two definitions for the word shame*. One defines shame as a noun this way:

  1. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Another defines shame as a verb this way:

  1. (of a person, action, or situation) make (someone) feel ashamed.

In life, we usually feel justified for the poor decisions we find ourselves making in the moment. Our conscience does remind us that we are doing something wrong, but it either feels right or we mistakenly believe it is the right or necessary thing to do. However, when the emotions calm down, and we wake up the next morning, or many mornings later, if we humble ourselves enough to consider where we went wrong, things look a lot differently. This shame can signal remorse to kick in and it can actually help us reach a point of repentance if we bring it before God, ask for His forgiveness, and seek the forgiveness of those affected by our poor choices.

At that point, any moment of shame we may feel should encounter the reality that Jesus' sacrifice has covered our sins, and we are loved and forgiven by God. We learn lessons in the aftermath, and take greater precautions to never repeat those wrong choices. We also take steps to improve whatever may have led up to those poor choices. We seek Godly advice, and intentionally pursue living according to God's Word, allowing it to shape our character. The pain or consequences that those poor choices caused will remain, but they can be redeemed by God and lessen their intensity with time.

For the Christian, we must be diligent to deal with these issues right away, because Jesus left us a parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt and did not forgive the lesser debt of another man. In this parable, along with the Lord's Prayer, we learn that God expects us to forgive everyone every day, no matter the debt. We will always have been forgiven more than what someone else "owes us". If we take an unforgiving approach with others that have harmed us, we aren't actually turning our backs to the person that hurt us, but we are turning our back to God in rebellion to what He commands us to do: love and forgive.

This has more to do with the second definition of shame. It is possible that the main players that were affected the most by poor choices have moved on, reconciled, forgiven each other, and decided not to hold on to a list of wrong doings, but the people in their life have not. Now shame is not internal, because that shame is being met with God's love and grace, but instead it's coming from other people. It can come directly through words, or indirectly through actions. Every word and action presses onto a remorseful heart's past wounds, triggering painful memories, threatening the peaceful reconciliation that exists in the present, and bringing to the surface past internal shame that no longer serves any good purpose. In a sense, this form of shame that comes from others can be more destructive and cause further damage and pain. The one at fault of making poor choices in the beginning but has since then repented is no longer the person that is currently making poor choices, but instead the person that intentionally decides not to forgive and walk towards love and restoration.

Feelings do not have to get in the way of forgiveness. We do not have to wait for an apology in order to forgive. Our sinful heart can wait a lifetime and still not "feel" like forgiving. Sin will always let pride, resentfulness, and anger override God's commands. Instead, we must forgive, and pray for our enemies, as our great example Jesus taught us. Love is an action, not a feeling. When we love, we forgive, and those are two things that are very important to God.

If you are dealing with someone that is still holding your past poor choices or pain you caused them against you, remember that's a decision, or poor choice that they are making. Pray for them, and ask God to give you wisdom to navigate your specific situation. Remember not to allow their actions to dictate what fills your mind and heart. Let your heart be full of the love of God and love for others, and your mind be full of peace and forgiveness.

Below are some Bible verses that talk about this. Leave in the comments section any others that come to your mind!

"And Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Luke 23:34 ESV

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

Romans 12:18 ESV

“You have heard that it was said,‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

Matthew 5:43-45 ESV

"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Matthew 6:7-15 ESV

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV

"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35 ESV


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