How to Resolve Daily Shame Interactions
I recently attended a meeting of professionals who were well-educated, had good jobs and good families. A person came in and inconsiderately interrupted the meeting. No one said anything to this person but the majority of those in the meeting gave fleeting glances of disgust or disapproval. This is an example of shame in action. Understanding shame interactions, how to recognize them and how to resolve daily shame interactions is an important tool to use in your Christian devotions to build Christian maturity.
In years past I had not realized how common shame is. I had heard statements like, “Guilt says you have done something bad, shame says that you are bad;” and “Shame only grows in the dark.” I had thought shame only occurs in someone who has really been exploited or victimized in some way. I certainly didn’t see how it applied in my life and definitely not in any regular kind of way.
The first key steps to overcoming shaming interactions are identification and recognition.
Why is this important?
When I judge another human being I am effectively saying that I am better than they are, that I would never fail in the type of way they did. This serves to put a wall up around my heart, a barrier between that person and myself. Judgement causes blockage.
One time I was on the subway in Seoul where I saw a Muslim man with his wife who was covered in a burqa. Previously I had judged that if foreign women have to wear the appropriate clothing in Muslim nations, then Muslim women should adjust in non-Muslim nations. As I saw this couple I thought to myself, “Dude, men are not after your wife. You don’t have to keep her covered like that.” Immediately I realized – that was a judgmental thought! It put a barrier up in my heart between he and I and blocked the flow of love and compassion and any hope of sharing the Gospel with this man.
1 John 4:18-21 says we can talk a good game, but if we have a wall up toward a brother — even a “pre-Christian” — we have one up toward God as well. When I block myself from love, it opens the door to many difficulties such as less desire or discipline to pray and more desire to escape into television or food.
The Christian life is designed so that it only functions well on the foundation of a heart open to love. Without this, I can go through the motions of prayer or Christian service, but there’s no life in it. Keeping my heart “on-line” to love is a crucial skill.