Monday, March 23, 2015

Guilt versus Shame

"I am finding myself at a crossroads. How do I let go of this fear that I've always known? I have cried gut wrenching sobs this weekend over so many disappointments. How do I stop fear and begin trusting in a Sovereign God...who seems like someone I thought I knew but maybe I don't ? In my personal writing... I see fear is not the point, but Jesus is; how I respond and trust Christ in the midst of these hard places is where I will find grace."

So my first gestalt this week was on fear and faith. I am learning they are identical in that they are both based on the unknown and the future. I never saw them as similar before. So when we have a "fear" response from an event we could train ourselves to have a "faith" response to the same fear-inducing event.  Does this mean  it's not threatening? No. It's whether or not we feel God is capable (only capable not "will he") of working in the situation.  So then my thoughts went the way yours did. "In the back of my mind I hear a hurtful voice saying 'you can ask all you want but God will do what he's going to do and he always uses pain'". Then it makes me think why bother praying." This is where the second gestalt comes in. My husband has been teaching recently on shame and guilt. If I could bottle these teachings and sell them, I'd make a fortune, if I could get folks to swig the tonic. "It'll cure what ails ya!"

I may destroy the beauty of the way he taught this by going straight to the point. Guilt is necessary to bring us to repentance and says "I have done wrong". Shame is language that is from the devil and says "I am wrong." .....Ok. So here's a story. A man goes to the store and the cashier misses ringing up a pricey item. The man notices, says nothing. Deliberates about what to do. Drives away with unpaid item. Starts feeling guilt. Repents. Goes back to pay.......enter shame......He tells the clerk "when I checked my receipt I noticed I didn't pay for this item." He hears "Thank you for being so honest. We appreciate customers with integrity". He pays and leaves. Guilt worked. He repented. Corrected the wrong. But SHAME tells him he was still wrong because he told a lie. The wrong was righted. He was forgiven.  The devil then begins his work on finding something to torture the man with.  Right. This message isn't for those with a seared conscience. This message is for God's people who struggle with "God doesn't love me because I keep making mistakes. We can only help those who love God and want to be pleasing to him. There are many who struggle with "God is trying to destroy me because I keep making mistakes." Shame leads us to one side or the other of these extreme and paired responses.
Superiority or Inferiority
Control or Passivity
Perfectionism or Defeatism
Blame others or Blame self
Silence (no talk rule to hide shame) or Tell-all (excessive confession)
Distrust/suspicion of others or Can't trust self
As well as Embarrassment, humiliation, fear, and anger.

All these are pendulum swing responses of one extreme or the other to deal with or hide internal shame.

Satan's purpose for using shame (his tool that works) is to separate us from God. Like Adam in the garden. When he listened to shame ("you are naked") he hid himself from God.....Adam and Eve didn't hide themselves because they felt guilt. They were shamed by the devil. Nakedness wasn't a problem before. They didn't see someone with clothes on and find out they didn't have any. They couldn't blame their shame on being raised by dysfunctional parents--they had the best Father imaginable.  Their shame caused them to hide from God.  Satan won.

When we feel guilt for a specific action, we repent. If we continue to deal with it after repentance, that is shame. If we know to not do something and we do it, we then should allow God to bring about repentance--listen to the guilt which leads to repentance.
If it's not a wrong action and we struggle with it, that's shame. That's the devil's way of separating us from God. The devil is a false accuser. A slanderer. His sole purpose is to separate us from God using any tool that works. Shame keeps us feeling the guilt even though we repented and corrected the situation.

Negative self talk is still the devil. Not us. If we hear negative things in our head or repeat them, we are listening to and repeating the devil's words. The devil makes us hate things. He would make us hate God if he could. Shame causes FEAR which is the devil's weapon of choice because it works so well. Shame makes us run from God because we fear His punishment. But God LOVES us and simply desires us to trust Him. He doesn't whack-a-mole us.

If we struggle with either of those extremes on the list -- which I do--we all do to an extent-- then we struggle with shame which means we struggle with the temptation to listen to the devil and allow the devil to interpret what God is doing in our lives. On the earlier list of responses, some may tend toward one response and some the other.  Both are listening to the devil. The controllers and perfectionists hide their shame by covering it up. The passivists and victims deal with their shame by exposing it. Both are listening to the devil. If we are feeling badly about something and can't point to a specific action that is making us feel that guilt, then that is most likely shame. Those foggy feelings of "does God even care?"  That is shame.

We can define shame as "I'm listening to and repeating the devil".
God accepts us. He loves us. He is thrilled when we return to Him.  He is glad when we repent and do the right thing. The devil would have us believe that God would respond like "well, yeah, you paid for the item. But I'm still mad. You will probably do it again. I don't believe you have it in you. You'll fail again."

Action plan: we have to stop listening to the devil.

This world is not our home. Our only hope is in Christ and in eternally dwelling with him. If things go well on earth, great. If we expect to choose Christ and live In a bubble protected from life from that point on, we are in false doctrine. We are believing prosperity trash. God does not inflict pain. The devil inflicts pain. We choose to cause ourselves pain. We surround ourselves with people and choices that cause pain. People are blessed when they obey God's principles. When they have wisdom. When they seem to escape the trials of life. But not everyone who is an awesome Christian escapes the trials of life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Corrie Ten Boom? Her sister? Present day martyrs who are dying for the name of Christ? Can we look at some of those pillars and say "I must be a better Christian because I have my health and my house and my money."  ???
There were awesome believers who were burned at the stake. And there are satan spawn who are richer than Croesus.

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