Shame is a powerful topic and is often at the root of depression and anxiety. It also affects self- esteem. Shame can be triggered by the way we have been wrongly treated. In this post I am unpacking shame Biblically. I will look at its causes and treatment in my next post. I have chosen to make this post on the Bible for Christians reading here, as I believe understanding what God has to say about this is a good barometer to how we should view it.
For those coming to therapy, Scripture is only referred to with the express permission of the client. I never use it in a judgemental or critical manner with any individual, as I am a sinner saved by grace.
For many coming to counselling shame goes right back to earliest memories and may involve exposure or nakedness. Here we are into the language of the Bible.
“Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2.25
But once sin (wrong thoughts, words or actions) entered the genes of mankind through Adam and Eve’s disobedience (wrong doing) – shame was right there.
“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He (Adam) answered “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Genesis 3. 9-19.
But God, the source of all love and goodness, covered Adam and Eve’s shame by making garments for them. Genesis 3.21.
Throughout the Bible shame is expressed in nakedness.
Speaking of Noah in Genesis 9.21-24:
“When he had drunk some of the wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Ham the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders and they walked in backwards, and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said “Cursed be Canaan!”
I have included this passage, as the heroes of the Bible reflect God’s attitude here. The fact that these verses have been included in the Bible help us to see the significance in God’s sight. It also helps us to understand how we may feel over physical exposure and other behaviours related to this.
God sees our shame. In Revelations 4.18 God is speaking to the church in Laodicea.
“I counsel you to buy from me gold, refined by fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
The “gold” in these verses is the Gospel. Treasure is often a metaphor for the Gospel or kingdom of heaven. Matthew 13.44.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4.7.
Access to this kingdom can only be attained by trusting in Jesus, his death for us and his resurrection. Jesus himself takes our shame on the cross, so we need never be put to shame. He carried our shame for us as he was crucified naked.
God alone sees our shame: Hebrews 4.13.
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.”
But if we trust in Jesus:
“No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” Psalm 25.3a.
God heals us as he changes us. 2 Corinthians 4.16:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
“And we, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3.18
The apostle Paul says in Romans:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8.35.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him (Jesus) who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8.37-39.
So let us take heart as we gently address in counselling, the complex and devastating issue of shame and it’s causes, which include the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. I will write more on this in my next post.
All Bible quotations are from the NIV.
Copyright © 2019 Susie Scott Kydd.