Commentators now observe how Western culture, especially the millennial generation, is becoming more shame-prone. Consequently, more Westerners are seeking release from the disease of shame—that dreadful feeling of unworthiness and isolation.
Building on the popular books and TED talks from shame-researcher Brené Brown, evangelical authors like Christine Caine, Lecrae, and others have written books about becoming Unashamed. They share a common message: You shouldn’t feel ashamed, so stop listening to the condemning voices of others. For Christians who have known the gospel as simply the forgiveness of trespasses (i.e., salvation from our guilt), this news about salvation from shame can be truly liberating.
While this “gospel for shame” is true, it is not entirely true.
The assumptions of Western psychology shape the common perception of shame as a negative, internal emotion of low self-esteem. This individualistic, subjective view of shame limits our reading of Scripture. So if we are going to expose shame, let’s expose it for what it really is.
Shame sucks. We humans often feel inferior for the wrong reasons: an abnormality, an embarrassing incident, or an abusive comment. God heals us from that subjective, personal experience of disgrace. But interestingly, sometimes shame can be good.
A sanctified conscience has a proper sense of shame (Malachi 1:6-9). God wanted Israel to feel shame (Ezekiel 16:60-63), and Paul deliberately evoked shame among the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:5, 15:34). So people aren’t created to be entirely shameless.