Tag Archives: shame

Shame and ministry of seeing vulnerable people


When Jesus saw her [someone crippled for 18 years], he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

When you think of Jesus’ ministry, you may think about the miracles or the sermons or the conflicts with the priests or the conversations with his disciples. But notice how much of his ministry is the work of seeing invisible and burdened people; people with shame. He sees lepers, the blind man Bartimaeus, the bleeding woman, the Samaritan woman, the centurion with a sick child, the rich young ruler and many more.

He had to see them; he had to go through Samaria. Why did he have to go? He had to go in order to meet broken people where they lived (or sat or lay).

Crossing the chasm of shame 

This past weekend I taught at Biblical Seminary on the topic of pornography and sexual addiction. The MDiv course, was designed less to help current and future pastors help addicts and more to help ministry leaders address their own struggles with sexual shame.  The truth is that we all carry around in our being some form of sexual shame. It is something we want to hide and keep from others. We don’t want this shame to be seen, even if our shame is caused by the sins of others.

During the class I asked everyone to consider one of their experiences of shame and to then list on separate post-its what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that it might evoke (HT to the post-it queen herself–Heather Drew–for this idea!). Then, I had them consider what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts they had when they recalled a time they felt loved and cared for by someone who knew that shame story they carried. Students then placed their post-its on opposite walls of a hall. Silently the class first examined the shame side and then moved to consider the grace side. While it was easy to move from shame to grace in our activity, we considered the chasm shame creates and the impossibility of really being seen AND loved at the same time.

When I asked students how they moved from shame to grace in their own lives, the stories contained a common element. There was someone who pursued them, who stuck out a hand and drew them out of their shame. This someone was someone who saw them and love them just the same.

This is the central ministry of Jesus. He crosses the chasm of shame and sees (and touches) the unloved. Lest you think that God the father is a distant member of the trinity, remember that his first action after Adam and Eve sinned was to go find them. He pursued them. He saw them. He engaged in conversation. He provided a covering for them. Some of the most beautiful images of this ministry of seeing us in our shame and pursuing us just the same is found in the book of Hosea. Depicted as a wayward wife who has returned to prostitution, God’s people are pursued by him, bought back from the pimp and invited back into the marriage bed.

The main ministry of Jesus is pursuit of broken people, to see them and touch them. It is not to put them in a program of change as we are often want to do. Rather, Jesus invites those he loves to remain connected to him, to follow him. Consider the invitations Peter received before and after the crucifixion:

Peter said to him, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “if I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17f)

What if the work of the church is to see and serve shamed individuals? How might this change how we evaluate Christian ministry outcomes?

 

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, pornography, sexual addiction, Uncategorized

Diane Langberg on Shame


A few years ago, Dr. Diane Langberg presented on the topic of shame at the 2014 Community of Practice hosted by the American Bible Society. She describes the toxicity of shame as a distinct part of trauma, especially betrayal trauma. You will learn about the cognitive phase of shame, kinds of shame experienced and how the response to shame takes one of 4 common forms (i.e., withdraw, avoid, attack self, attack others).

Make sure you watch to the end as she shares some insights to how God understands and responds to our problem of shame. See how Jesus enters in to our shame.

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Filed under Abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sexual abuse, trauma, Uncategorized

Watch this on shame and trauma


A couple of years ago Diane Langberg spoke on shame and trauma for the American Bible Society. I highly recommend this 56 minute presentation. She talks about the experience of shame, the stickiness of self, communal forms of shame, and the myriad ways we respond to shame across various cultures.

We watched it again in staff meeting today. Make sure you catch her discussion of what some cultures believe cleanse shame. And then notice how that is close but a huge distortion from a Christian view of what heals shame.

Watch it here.

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Of Dogs and Christianity…


I have 2 new posts at our Biblical Seminary faculty blog: one about what my dog teaches me about shame and desire and another about a rethinking of Christianity through the lens of evangelisation of the Masai–not into a Western-style church but into their own expression of church and community. You might not have any interest in a tribe from Tanzania, but I think you will find Father Donovan’s book an opportunity for you to re-think what the Gospel is all about.

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Filed under addiction, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, church and culture, Doctrine/Theology

Whose shame do you carry?


Diane Langberg and I talked recently about the concept of shame. She mentioned reading an interesting mystery that had a couple of lines about shame that might be powerful imagery for some. The novel, C.J. Sansom’s Sovereign, is about a hunchbacked lawyer. About 200 pages in the lawyer has an encounter with King Henry the 8th. The King scorns the lawyer publicly for his hunch (at which everyone laughed).

His first reaction?

“Now I had met him. I felt for a second that he shown me what I was, an unworthy creature, a beetle crawling on the earth.” (p. 221)

Then anger arises in the lawyer. Why? for he recognizes the weight on him is not his own shame, but that of the king.

Whose shame do you carry? Most often we carry either the clear shame of our own misdeeds OR the shame foisted on us by the misdeeds of others. And it seems that the shame put upon us by abuse and maltreatment weighs us down the most. Often those who mistreat us do so in ways to make us believe that in fact we are worthy of shame or that they are righteous in their treatment of us.

What would happen if you saw it not as your own but thrust upon you by those who mistreated you? If you could hand it back (metaphorically), would your own back straighten? Would you feel less dirty and self-negating? If you suffer from shame due to mistreatment, try to imagine that the feelings are not yours but in fact the abusers.  Imagine what life might be like if you were to shed that shame that does not belong to you.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, Meditations, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Did Paul struggle with past memories?


On Sunday Steve Light preached from Acts regarding the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Prior to his conversion he was known to be one seeking the death of Jewish followers of Jesus. He witnessed and may have provided support for the stoning of Stephen. Upon his conversion those Christians in his circles were wary of whether he was a changed man or merely using it as a ploy to disrupt new churches. These folks had visceral reactions to such a person because they had likely experienced great suffering and distress by Paul’s hand.

Today, Christians generally think positive thoughts about Paul. He is the human author of most of the NT. His words give instruction, comfort, rebuke. We know he was a former violent man but we don’t experience him that way.

SO, here’s my question. Do you think Paul suffered from unwanted or painful memories of past actions? How did it impact him? We know very little about this from Scripture. Yes, Paul admits his past. He thanks God for unmerited grace and favor. But, he doesn’t address the existence of memories.

My thought? I think it is very human to remember shameful acts we have done. In fact, let me be bold enough to say we must remember them if we are to be human. The bigger question is rather HOW we remember them? Volf’s The End of Memory (which I have blogged through here some time ago) is instructive in answering this question. 

How do you remember shameful images or memories of your past? Do they hold you back from relationships? Do they keep you paralyzed? Are you constantly trying to better yourself to make up for the past?

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, Christianity, memory, Psychology, sin

John Freeman’s story of God’s mercy


Several of the folks at HarvestUSA (see my sidebar for their site) have written pieces for the Philadelphia Daily News. My friend John’s piece was published most recently so click the link and read and rejoice in God’s redemptive power.

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Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, Relationships, Sex