We go to great lengths to cover our sin.   We hide it, deny it, justify it, psychologize it, and rationalize it.

Perhaps we are even so far removed from our sin that we call it by a different name altogether.   We make ‘mistakes’,  we are ‘inclined’ toward certain things,  we have a ‘tendency’ to get angry, we are in  the bad ‘habit’ of lying,  gossiping and cheating.   And perhaps we do this unconsciously because the word ‘sin’ makes us uncomfortable.    Sin often travels with his big brother Shame and we’d do almost anything not to have Shame around.   Psychologists have gone so far as to convince us that we need   not have shame at all, only ‘repressions and inhibitions’.

C.S. Lewis said this of shame, “Unless Christianity is wholly false, the perception of ourselves which we have in moments of shame must be the only true one….In trying to extirpate shame, we have broken down of the ramparts of the human spirit.”

Shame literally means ‘to cover’ and it’s one of the most uncomfortable human emotions that exists, which is why we avoid it like the plague.

Shame is the painful feeling that arises from the consciousness of something dishonorable, disgraceful, humiliating.   Shame makes us seek cover.  It makes of want to shrink to nothing.

Lewis claims that we as a civilization have lost our ability to know real shame and thus lost our ability to appreciate the depth of our depravity.

But we’ve all been there.   We’ve all been guilty of that ‘thing’ which we hope noone ever finds out,  ‘that ugly and mean action which not even the worst of our friends would have done.’

Lewis says,  “At such a moment we really do know that our character, as revealed to us in this action, is, and ought to be, hateful to all good men, and to God.”

And then he makes a leap that I’m still wrestling with in my mind.

He entertains the thought that though our sins are forgiven fully in Christ, they are not washed out by time.  Time does not cancel them.  His argument is that all times are present to God and perhaps it’s possible that He forever sees you ‘lying and lusting and in that moment of cowardice.’   “It may be that salvation consists not in the canceling of these eternal moments but in the perfected humanity that bears the shame forever, rejoicing in the occasion which it furnished to God’s compassion and glad that it should be common knowledge to the universe.”

“Perhaps the lost are those who dare not go to such a public place.”

So, my question to us all is this;     why will we do almost anything to prevent ourselves from being exposed, from feeling shame?”

Why do we so violently protect our ‘good’ name and ‘good’ reputation.  I suspect we have not plumbed the depths of our own sinful heart.

But it is at that precise moment—-in our despair—-that our hearts can perceive the need for forgiveness.  It is on the bedrock of  guilt and shame that we can know true Rescue.  Our brokenness and disgrace has brought death, a literal wasting away,  and now the  mercy and compassion of Christ can raise us to life.   Shame is not our enemy.  He may well be the gatekeeper to our freedom and joy.

“The perfected humanity that bears the shame forever…..”—–that will take a Divine intervention.


All ideas and quotes taken from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis


35 comments on “Shame”

  1. Wow, Edie….much to chew on. Sometimes I think that the worry of having my “shame” exposed is worry about not being accepted. Y’know? But then I wonder if I am worrying about man’s acceptance more than my Father’s. It’s hard to think about. Thanks for bringing thoughts to light.

    • Yes, I know what you mean and I think we all have those very same worries.   The book is so profound and insightful and I don’t AT ALL communicate what I think he’s saying (my inadequacy, not his) but surely lots to chew on:)
      Thanks for reading.

  2. We avoid shame because of pride?  Shame brings humility when we see what we really are in the depths of our hearts, so we avoid it when it is good for us to face it.
    Good word, Edie.  I like that you challenge me to dig deep.

    • I think so too Renee.  Our pride can’t handle the weight of it.  Most of us have no idea what true humility looks like, myself included.  Lewis says that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.   He’s comes through with the knock-out every time.
      Much love as we all dig deep 🙂

  3. This spoke so much life into me right now. Thank you.  For years I have been the great minimizer and the great rationalizer.  Six months ago I gave my life to Christ. He is my savior and redeemer and I now know that I live for Him. We are all perfectly imperfect, but I pray each day that I give Him the driver’s seat to guide my steps which I know He wants to do.  I still have so much to learn and I appreciate this post so much.

  4. A saved person has two natures. One is the flesh – the old man – the old nature- that can only sin. The other is the new man – the new nature –  that can only please God and delights to do His will. Usually the one that I feed is the one that acts. We will never be rid of the old nature until we get to heaven, yet we have no excuse to act in the flesh. A believer has has every thing he needs to live a life pleasing to God, honoring the Lord. 

    If I have been feeding the old man, I make him strong, and he will act. I may be so far away from God in my bad state that I will not listen to the promptings of the Spirit of God, and I will be proud, and then shame may keep me from admitting my wrong and I can get yet further and further away from the Lord in my walk. (This would not effect my standing in Christ, which can never change. “shall not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16)  

    If I am feeding the new man, and “keeping short accounts” with the Lord, confessing known sin, then I will grow. Then I am in a better state and I will be more humble and not afraid of the light of His countenance. I will not flee from Him or His presence. I would not allow shame to be fueled because I have a tender conscience. I would think much of Christ, and little of me. 

    Got to run!

  5. “All is of God; the only thing of my very own which I contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.”  William Temple 
    Your post reminded me of this.  I have it written in the front of my Bible.  And I believe it with all my heart.
    Thanks so much for making us think 🙂

  6. I agree that sin is sin and we need to acknowledge it as such before God.  But He promises that “when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
    He also promises “to remember our sins no more” Heb 10:17 and “as far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us” Psalm 103:12
    So, if Lewis is saying what it sounds like he is saying, I don’t agree. I am a big fan of Lewis but on the basis of these scriptures I believe that God sees us in Christ and does not remember our sin.  That is, if we have confessed them and been forgiven, they are blotted out.  The problem with shame is that we ourselves hold us accountable for our past sins “I can’t believe I did that”, “I just can’t forgive myself” etc. That is our pride getting in the way of our experiencing His forgiveness, by thinking we might have or should have been perfect on our own. 
    Satan is the one who accuses us before the Father (Rev. 12:10).  If He can’t keep us from salvation he wants to immobilize us as Christians by feelings of guilt and shame and unworthiness.  This is his campaign against us and we do get these fiery darts.  But we need to learn to answer back “That sin of ….was taken care of at the Cross.  Thank you, Lord.  I leave it at the cross, accepting Your forgiveness”.
    Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus.  We should experience that joy!

    • Very grateful for this comment, Hollace…because the essence of these scriptures you quoted was pulsing in my mind, but I couldn’t remember them. We also worry about what others think, forgetting the power of what God himself thinks. XO

    • I would agree with you wholeheartedly Hollace and it’s certainly my inadequacy (and not Lewis’) that may give the ‘rub’ here.   I think what is getting at is very deep and profound but I don’t think it’s in contrast at all with the orthodox view of justification and the forgiveness of sins.  I’ve read this book many times and this is the first time I caught that phrase so it got under my skin.
      Thanks so much for adding clarity to the discussion.

      • An interesting discussion today.  I should get out my book and read it but this week I am focusing on “blessed is the one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness for he shall be filled.”  My remarks came out of considering being “poor in spirit” and “mourning” in the past couple of weeks.  Any thoughts on hungering and thirsting after righteousness?

  7. This article is very good, I like this sentence:”perfected humanity that bears the shame forever, rejoicing in
    the occasion which it furnished to God’s compassion and glad that it
    should be common knowledge to the universe.”

  8. Edie-this is a tough one to take in. Shame is what we tend to run from. The feelings of guilt and even contempt toward our sin are too overwhelming. It is far easier to cover it up, put on a smile, play the good girl. We are sinful and wretched without the saving grace of our God.
    Thank you for another thought provoking post that requires me to look into my own heart.

  9. I am in the midst of leading some women through a post-abortive Bible study right now and shame is a HUGE issue.  In this particular issue we are told from the beginning that “nobody ever has to know”, it immediately becomes a huge secret issue and many made the commitment to carry the shame of killing their unborn child to their grave…literally!  Praise God that as I watch these women believe the truth of God’s word and not only receive the forgiveness that is available to them, but to actually forgive themselves, the shame is lifted and they are able to grieve the loss of the child and embrace the healing. We will forever carry the scar of the pain and suffering but praise God it is only a reminder of HIS goodness! 

  10. Love the post!  What I’m wrestling with right now is the shame one feels from sin committed against them; unjust suffering. Possibly from a broken family, abuse in childhood, ect. How is this shame dealt with differently or similarly  from the above? Thoughts?

    • I think the most helpful thing I’ve ever read regarding shame is out of Dan Allender’s book, The Wounded Heart. His chapter about Sin & Shame talk about legitimate and illegitimate shame–that which we feel when we sin (which is good and cathartic and soul-healing), and that which is a reflection of the accuser (Rev 12:10) goading us to hide our faces, the ways we reflect our Maker. This illegitimate shame comes from any number of abuses, from playground taunts to the unspeakable (and yet that which must be spoken). The chapter on Contempt talks about how we handle shame, and is SO valuable in understanding my sinful strategies, and those of others. Those two chapters are worth the price of the book, and give depth and context to Lewis.

      • I haven’t read this but thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.   I’m aware of how inadequately a few quotes can come across when taken out of their context in the book.   Lewis can so brilliantly articulate the very thoughts in our head but they are best taken as a whole for sure.   
        Much love and blessings,

    • Kholz, As a biblical counselor, I can offer some thoughts on this for you.   The distinction is that shame from sin committed against you is different than shame for the sin you commit. The Shame or guilt we feel from our own sin moves us towards repentance. These thoughts comes from the Holy Spirit, and  never accuses or condemns. Simply put, He gently reminds us of our sin, and draws us to Christ to whom we confess and receive forgiveness. Then we are right with Christ, and our relationship is restored, all because of the Cross. We are washed whiter than snow, and are clean once again. Once we are forgiven of our sins, we have no more shame. 

      The other type of shame, shame from sin committed against us is not from God.  Rather, it is from the enemy of our souls who would accuse us day and night before the throne of God.  It bogs us down, makes us feel terrible, and most importantly, it’s false. This sort of shame is a lie because you were not the one responsible for the sin. You are merely the victim here, not the perpetrator, who IS responsible for the sin committed. 

      It is possible that one who has been abused has fallen into the trap of feeling shame for their part in the abuse. If that is true, confess that part as your sin and receive forgiveness.  But remember, abusers are good at telling the victim that she deserved it, or wanted it, or a number of lies to blame-shift, so that THEY( the abusers) don’t feel shame. 

      Working this through with a good biblical counselor or pastor can help you identify the type of shame/guilt you are experiencing, and no matter what its source, be set free from it. Christ gave his life for us to walk in victory and experience abundant life. Whether this is for you or a friend, getting someone to work through this with is so very helpful. Sometimes we are blind to how distorted our thoughts have become, and someone with an objective eye can see things we can’t.
       Hope this is helpful, God’s best to you!

  11. Ouch! I usually read and not comment, but I have to say a big thanks for this one.  Nothing like a deep thought to start the week off right.  What’s so amazing about God’s Word is how the same verses can touch each of us right where we are.  This touches me today because of my own struggle with self worth and value.  It is at the bottom of that pit where I find Christ, lifting me up and carrying me out of my own shame and sin.  Thanks again for this reminder to get out of my own head and let Him be my salvation.  Lisa~

  12. to answer your question, we do it because we all have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil . Just like Adam and Eve we grab the closest, easiest, most plausable fig leaf we can find. We forget that God already “sewed” clothing for us through Christ, we forget to grab IT, instead of the fig leaf.
     I’m just a little turned off by the word shame because in this age we equate it more to the idea of condemnation (i think that is where I’m tripping up with Lewis’ words). But I get the picture. I would just call it guilt. (in Christ there is no condemnation.
    Because we ate the fruit and we have the law, we know, we know when we have missed the mark. The Holy Spirit reveals our sin so we can agree with God that in doing whatever we have done we have built a barrier that he has already broken down (the vail in the temple was torn!).
    When guilt comes we have a choice: Grab the closest leaf, or go to the foot of the cross and take the lovely garmet of Christ. (Romans 13:14 “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”)
    Can you tell I’m smack dab in the middle of reading Emily’s book?

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