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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Shame Is Too Heavy to Carry

Shame is a weight too heavy to carry!

Failures, disgrace, embarrassment, social rejection, ridicule, — even dishonor, are common feelings for most of us. I’m not suggesting that all of our failings are equal, just familiar.

Shame can taunt us in the form of “bullying.”

The social preferences of the moment can “shame” anyone who fails to conform to the preferred standard. “Shameful behavior” is defined and condemned by the Left and Right; Religious and Non-religious. However, in our attempt to present “our standard,” we inadvertently — or purposefully — shame others.

Without careful attention, parental training can undermine the dignity of children. We desire them to live productive and wholesome lives. However, despite our aspiration to encourage proper behavior, it is challenging to correct the action, while still making the child feel valued and loved.

Religious teaching — without prayerful, thoughtful, and intentional care — can shame. We’re familiar with people who use Scripture as a hammer of destruction, rather than an instrument of love and kindness.

A biblical perception of shame is a mental state of humiliation as a result of sin. When we depart from the law of God, we experience rejection and separation — from God and others. Equally, our obedience to God’s instruction nurtures integrity.

As followers of Christ, we believe that God’s Word — both Old and New Testaments —defines morality. This source of morality frequently places us under the microscope of the current social trend, or the scrutiny of those who follow a different compass.

However, shaming is not only from external sources. My internal critic works around-the-clock to shame me: “You’re not good enough.” “How can you lead others when you have failed so often?”

My internal voice reminds me of past sins, inappropriate behavior, and failures that most people may not know anything about. Although Christ has forgiven me, I still remember my failures!

It’s easy to view shame and guilt as the same. Although there are similarities, they are not identical.

Brene’ Brown writes:

“Shame is a focus on self; guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is, ‘I did something bad.’"[1]

That is an important distinction.

It’s one thing to acknowledge “I made a mistake,” than to declare: “I am a mistake!”

All of us (you and me) have (and do) sin! We fail, unintentionally (and if we’re honest) — sometimes intentionally. Isaiah reminds us:

“We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.” ⁠[2]

That’s the reality for each of us!

On more than one occasion, I have asked the question: “What would it look like to live a life free of guilt?”

At times, I longed for it. I tried to convince myself that guilt is something imposed on me by others. If I could ignore, reject, or suppress it, somehow, I could live free of guilt to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted!

I admit it sounds nice. But is it?

There have been times in my life when shame has been suffocating. I tried to rationalize: “If there’s no guilt, there can be no shame.” However:

To live a life free of guilt would ignore my sinfulness. And, to live life in shame ignores Christ’s forgiveness!

Does guilt haunt you? It doesn’t have to!

The Psalmist David, keenly familiar with sin writes:

“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.[3]” [Emphasis mine]

Guilt is an instrument that helps me acknowledge and confess my sin. The assurance we have is when we confess our sins, “God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins” (1 John 1:9).

And, when we acknowledge (confess) our sins, not only do we receive forgiveness of our sins, our guilt is forgiven as well!

I no longer desire to live a life with no guilt. I’m thankful for the reminder that I sin — and that God is quick to forgive those who confess their sin.

And, I’m thankful to remember that shame serves to remind me of Christ’s forgiveness!

Is the weight of shame too heavy to carry? Perhaps it’s time to let it go, by reconnecting with the joy of God’s forgiveness.


[2] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Is 64:6.

[3]The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ps 32:5.

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