The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Shame on you

To come out of hiding and speak to shame is a powerful experience

You may not have climbed out of bed this morning soaked with a lifetime of shame to weigh you down for yet another day. But don't take this as a sign that you are shame-free.

Shame is a universal human experience. It is inescapable. Many of us are wizards at hiding different facets of our shame, stuffing some of its effects into the deeper recesses of our psychological closets. Yet, however much we may wish to ignore the impact of shame on our identity, it still burrows in for the long haul.

Way back in the second chapter of Genesis we read that Adam and Eve were naked, but "were not ashamed." By the next chapter, that all changed. Once the pair had eaten from the one tree they were not supposed to lay their hands on, they were full of shame. Putting needle and thread together they sewed a scratchy garment of fig leaves. When that didn't sufficiently cover their shame, they sought the camouflage of a bush, as if a honeysuckle would confuse the searching eyes of God.

We have been trying to hide our shame, or at least the scars of our shame, ever since.

Maybe you are one who lives with the unfortunate memory of a middle school physical education class that didn't exactly grow your self-esteem. The teacher picked two students to be captains of the two softball teams that day. As these captains stood beside each other choosing classmates in alternating fashion, you wondered when your name would be called. It didn't happen until the very end. With only two students yet undrafted, guess who stood there sheepishly? The captains must have deemed you not athletic enough, agile enough or popular enough. Whatever their reasons, you endured the experience tense and perspiring, completely humiliated.

You were not guilty of anything. You simply felt worthless. Vulnerable. Stripped bare. If there had been a bush in the vicinity, you would have scrambled to crouch behind it.

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February issue


Embracing diversity