Where Shame, Mercy and Grace Collide

Shame.  Mercy.  Grace.

How do all these words tie together?  And do they have anything to do with our sense of belonging?

These are deep concepts that are hard to handle in a simple blog.  By a simple person.  But because my post from last week (Does That Shame Really Belong in Your Baggage) touched on these topics, I don’t want to walk away from them.  I hinted in that post that some shame is misplaced while other shame is well-placed.  What’s the difference?

Shame can be defined as a negative, painful emotion that is the result of having done something wrong or foolish and can be brought about by being caught in the act of doing something immoral or illegal.  Shame is a common emotion that destroys self-esteem and makes a person feel unworthy.

So that answers one of my questions:  Yes, shame has everything to do with belonging because it makes us feel unworthy.

John Piper says in his sermon, Battling the Unbelief of Misplaced Shame, “Misplaced shame (the kind we ought not to have) is the shame you feel when there is no good reason to feel it. Biblically, that means the thing you feel ashamed of is not dishonoring to God; or that it is dishonoring to God, but you didn’t have a hand in it. In other words, misplaced shame is shame for something that’s good — something that doesn’t dishonor God. Or it’s shame for something bad but which you didn’t have any sinful hand in. That’s the kind of shame we ought not have.”

So the story referenced in my previous post should have brought no shame on me.  I wasn’t at fault.  I didn’t dishonor God.  The bully in the story was at fault.  He did dishonor God when he humiliated me.  Sadly I carried that misplaced shame myself way too long.  And to be honest, remnants still remain in my baggage to this day.  Silly, teasing words that continue to haunt.

Piper goes on to say, “I want to be sure you see how important God is in this distinction between misplaced shame and well-placed shame. Whether we have a hand in honoring God or dishonoring God makes all the difference. If we want to battle shame at the root, we have to know how it relates to God. And we do need to battle shame at the root — all shame.  Because both misplaced shame and well-placed shame can cripple us if we don’t know how to deal with them at the root.” (emphasis mine.)

Misplaced shame does not dishonor God — and though it is something that may paralyze us, it is not something that we did wrong.  We need to recognize it, and deal with it, so that we can move forward and be emotionally healthy, but we do not need to ask forgiveness for something we did wrong.

Well-placed shame does dishonor God.  We should be ashamed of our actions or words.  We did do something wrong.  The shame is deserved.  It does cause us to withdraw from others and feel undeserving.  What do we do with that?  Are we just condemned?  Lost?  Forever on the outside looking in?

This is where shame and grace and mercy collide.  God, in his mercy, offers us grace and forgiveness when we bring our shame to Him.   Do you carry well-placed shame?  Is it keeping you from others?  Do you hide?  Withdraw?  Feel like you don’t… can’t belong?

No words I could say to you will bring the comfort God’s Word has to offer.  I won’t even try — He says it best.  I am going to put some of His words right here so that they can wash over you.

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.  1 John 2:28

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.        1 Peter 2:6

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:5

As Scripture says, Anyone who believe in him will never be put to shame.  Romans 10:11

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

I hope those verses offer hope and healing to you.

God is waiting to forgive us, and take away our shame.  We don’t have to hide from him —  or others.  We can boldly and confidently seek out our place and our people.  And the good news?  Once we accept his grace, we belong to him.

And isn’t that just the best place to belong!

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