Shame enters the world

Take a look at this:

“Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” [emphasis mine] (Genesis 2:25, NLT)

“At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.” [emphasis mine] (Genesis 3:7, NLT)

What happened in between? The Fall. This is the story of Adam and Eve and how sin entered the world.

So here’s what I think: the Bible says that sin entered the world when Adam and Eve chose the forbidden fruit (Romans 5:12). I don’t know all of what that means, but I do believe that when sin entered the world, shame entered along with it.

According to the research, everyone experiences shame so this fits with me. It is universal to the human experience. And what did Adam and Eve do? They hid from God. Just like the shame research says: shame thrives in secrecy. In hiding. In covering ourselves so we won’t be “seen” (i.e., vulnerable).

So there you have it: our initial disconnection from God as a result of our own sense of shame. And what do I see God doing throughout history? Doing what He could to reconnect with his people, with all people, in the way at the time that they could grasp it. I believe that is why Jesus came to Earth. To make a way for us to have connection with God and not hide in our shame. We needed to be absolved of our shame. So Jesus died to say that we don’t have to carry that shame anymore. Grace is the way back to God.

And here’s another thing I’ve been thinking about: Paul talks a lot about our “sinful nature” (Romans 7 & 8, 1 Corinthians 3:3, Galatians 5, Galatians 6:8, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 2). What if when he talks about the “sinful nature”, he’s talking about our unhealthy, harmful, hurtful ways of dealing with our shame? Puts a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?

Growing up in an evangelical church, I had the impression that the “sinful nature” was my flawed – almost evil – self. Something to feel…shame about. But as I mentioned in other posts, shame does not bring about positive change, rather it is correlated with destructive behaviours. So this attitude seems counterproductive. How can I stop doing the things I hate about myself when I feel deeply flawed?

But…if we view the “sinful nature” from the perspective of shame as the driving force behind it, then accepting grace – that we are loved and accepted by God even in the midst of our brokenness – is what rescues us from our “sinful nature”.

I’ll admit I haven’t done a theological study on this, but I don’t think what I’m proposing as a perspective is counter to what the New Testament authors wrote about. For me, it’s a more liberating perspective. It’s no longer about trying to somehow contort myself into being a “better” person. It’s about resting and receiving the love and grace of God. When I live my life from that place, being a “Christian” (i.e., little Christ) becomes more like breathing and less like striving.

Tomorrow, I’m writing about my thoughts on the concepts of light and darkness and how they fit with this whole topic.