Godly sorrow versus shame.

I have noticed a trend among modern Christians to frequently express their concern that someone somewhere is being “shamed” or to complain that they themselves are being shamed.  So, is there truly an epidemic of shaming going on?

As I have written before elsewhere, there are two kinds of shame: intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic shame is shame for who you are and extrinsic shame is shame for something you have done.  It goes without saying that intrinsic shame should be laid down at the foot of the cross.

But what about extrinsic shame?  If I do something shameful, should I not feel ashamed of what I have done?

Oftentimes in my observation, people will say they are being “shamed” when in fact someone has simply pointed out sinful behavior, sometimes just in a general sort of way and not even directed at any particular person.  For example, if a Christian points out that it is wrong for a woman to engage in premarital sex, that Christian can count on being attacked by other Christians for “slut-shaming” which is wrong because Christ has set us free from our shame.

It is true that Christ has set us free from our shame.  It is also true that premarital sex is a sin.  It is also true that if someone is engaging in premarital sex and hears another person say, “Premarital sex is wrong,” that person will feel ashamed of his or her behavior.  Should we then stop teaching what sin is because hearing sin called sin will cause bad feelings in sinners?  Consider what Paul says in Romans 7:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin,seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

There is no reason for Christians to attack a specific person and heap shame on him or her.  But neither should we condemn one another for teaching the Law that God gave us; the Law allows us to experience godly sorrow for our sins so that we can repent of them and then lay our shame down at the foot of the cross.  We don’t have to bear the shame of our sin because Christ will do that for us, but that doesn’t mean that the sins aren’t shameful, it simply means that when we repent of those sins, we can be free of the shame by submitting to Christ.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Before we are quick to claim that we are being shamed or that someone else is being shamed upon hearing the Law, let us pause and ask ourselves if perhaps we are simply experiencing godly sorrow that leads to repentance and freedom in Christ.

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5 thoughts on “Godly sorrow versus shame.

  1. Well said. I’ve written quite a bit about that pride/shame dichotomy and some of the harm it does. What you are speaking of, extrinsic shame, I simply call conviction. If something is bothering us, making us feel uncomfortable, it is our own hearts that are convicting us. When we are truly in Christ other people don’t have the power to shame us, unless there is something going on there that we have not surrendered to Him.

    I avoid the word shame as much as possible, because shame is nearly always a toxic thing related to pride. It’s the pride that does the harm to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Shaming doesn’t work Part 2 | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  3. There is a difference between shame and guilt. Guilt concerns what someone has done. Shame can occur even when someone has not done anything. There are connections, of course, at times between the two.

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