Shame Unto Death or Godly Sorrow Leading to Life?

Some topics just keep coming back around in recovery ministry…..issues of shame and how to help people move from shame to godly sorrow so that they can be healed.  

Two years ago, July 25, 2015 on a morning news show there was a story about a father who had exercised public “shaming” of his daughter who had habitually stolen from and lied to her parents and others. The teen was forced to wear a sign in a public area. Her father videoed it and posted it on Facebook. The discussion on television was about whether this was appropriate discipline. What is the impact on the one who is shamed? Is it abuse or is it an acceptable “natural consequences” of bad behavior?   There have been other Facebook stories of parents who “exposed” their children and shamed them publicly.

I had been dealing with a pattern of lying with some adults in the Titus 2 program at the time. Getting caught and “called out” in community can lead to repentance and learning, especially if one is concerned about how she is perceived in relationship to God and to others in the community. In this case it had a positive impact in the group with which I was working. If one is not committed to the relationships in the community, is willing to abandon the community or be forced out, then the risk of such consequences may well be the motivation to do so. It can also be used to instruct the shamed person on how to grow from such humiliation and consequences of the behavior, accepting personal responsibility for the consequences of her actions and learning why it is important to change. However, one has to be able to be restored to community, chastened, and embraced in love afterwards for it to be most effective in bringing reconciliation. 

When we feel shame in our spirit because of our sin, it should lead us to godly sorrow, repentance, confession, and restoration with God and others. That is the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit within us. When we feel shame as humiliation (instead of godly sorrow) that wants to hide the sin, run away, cover up, lie or blame others we are not acting out of the influence of the Holy Spirit, but out of the influence of the Prince of Darkness, the Accuser of Humanity, the Father of Lies. So when one feels  shame, can it be restorative or must it always be toxic?  It depends on how it is processed and what one does with those feelings.

2 Corinthians 7:10-12 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.  o although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.”