“Be not ashamed of feeling shame or scornful of its purpose…These emotions -guilt and shame- guide us to better ourselves.” – Willard Gaylin
I’m currently taking a class on human development and we had to read an excerpt from the book Shame and Grace by Lewis B. Smedes that made me view shame in a completely new way. Generally, I think of shame as a negative emotion that should be avoided, but Smedes put a spin on it that I have never considered. “If we can still feel [shame],” says Smedes, “it is because we are healthy enough to feel uncomfortable with being less than we ought to be and less than we want to be.” Smedes celebrates the feeling of shame for its ability to remind us that we were meant to be better than we are. Deep down, we know that we fall short of the person we were created to be. As Christians, we are called to be perfect like our heavenly Father, but few of us reach that mark. Shame calls us to better ourselves and to strive for the holiness God has called us to. “A healthy sense of shame is perhaps the surest sign of our divine origin and our human dignity” (Smedes).
I found Smedes’ view of a healthy sense of shame valuable because it challenges me to dig down and discover why I feel shame. Am I feeling shame because I am not living the way God wants me to live? If so, then my shame motivates me to change my behavior and follow Christ more closely. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened when I read this article. Lately, I have felt a faint sense of shame when I think about the way I live my life. Smedes led me to examine why I feel that shame and, you know what, it is because I have not been following me dear Savior as closely as I should be. That sense of shame is nudging me, telling me that I am not living the abundant life God offers me and encouraging me to realign myself with His will. If I can remember to use shame as a tool to better myself, then I will gladly say, “shame on me.”