One of the good things about our culture is a heightened awareness of the problems associated with publicly shaming kids. Most of us are painfully aware of the psychological effects of purposeful shaming, and we want to avoid it for our kids.
However, deceiving them about their sinfulness or helping them avoid or hide their failures can be even more damaging, in the long run.
After we’ve dealt with unprofitable feelings of shame (see Part 1), we can look at the purpose for which God designed shame in the first place: to draw us closer to Him through repentance.
Our Own Way
Those who feel shame where there is no sin often tend to either avoid the biblical teaching about sin or learn to grow deaf to it; they simply cannot bear more shame on top of their already overwhelming burden. Once their misguided feelings of shame have been dealt with, though, the same coping responses to sin-guilt should be considered. Sometimes guilty sinners flaunt their sin, trying to convince themselves that it isn’t really sin; they even try to convince each other, but deep down, they know they’re guilty (Romans 2:15).
By contrast, the same ones who respond to misplaced shame by hiding probably also keep their sins private, fearing vulnerability to both God and other people. Perhaps that fear stems from harsh judgment from others, but either way, covering sins is dangerous (Proverbs 28:13). There is no forgiveness and cleansing when we fail to confess our sins. However, when we expose the wounds of our sinful hearts to God, He cleanses them and covers them for us (1 John 1:9, Psalm 85:2). Our healing also comes by exposing our sins to others (James 5:16).
God’s Way Out
Instead of living in shame, we can live in the freedom of forgiveness! God’s Word assures us that even the most ingrained sin patterns and incorrect ways of coping with our guilt and shame can be overcome through Christ (1 Peter 1:18). Repentance starts with saying the same thing about our sin that God does, but it doesn’t stop there. It results in a change of behavior.
What does it take to overcome our sin? It takes exposure to the truths of God’s Word, being convicted by the Holy Spirit and then correcting problem thinking and establishing righteous lifestyle patterns (2 Timothy 3:16). Often, that 4-step process requires a wise biblical counselor, who knows God’s Word well and can perceive root problems, who can help the process along.
First, the person will identify and teach relevant Scriptural passages and principles that apply to the situation. For a Spirit-filled believer, conviction of sin will result. After that, diagrams, illustrations, personal examples, and other resources will be used to help uproot wrong thinking and cement Scriptural truths. Then, training in righteousness can begin, as the other three steps continue. As with any new habits, this step requires intentional planning, concerted effort, anticipated rewards, and regular accountability and encouragement.