The Need for Boundaries
9/16/13 at 03:06 PM 9 Comments

Shame Can be Healthy When We Violate God's Standards

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Actions can be shameful. People made in God's image are not.

There is a common belief among the politically correct “intelligentsia” that shame is not something our kids--or anyone else for that matter--ought to experience. Even many Christians have bought into this idea. Scripture; however, seems to make a different case. God has made us, and our kids, with the capacity for many emotions--shame being just one of them. Confusion about this subject comes when someone attempts to force someone else to feel shame for something that God did not call shameful--like when a young child spills his milk or fails to control his bladder. Even then, there comes a time and age when even these acts become inappropriate--perhaps even shameful--particularly if done with reckless frequency and without legitimate excuse, i.e., such as a physical or mental condition. To remind an unrepentant child that he ought to be ashamed of himself for committing some blatant act of foolishness, abuse or other sinful activity can often be just good parenting. Or in the case of two adults, just being a good friend.

Proverbs 27: 6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted; but, an enemy multiplies kisses.” Besides, aren’t there things that we should be ashamed of? The Bible doesn’t have much positive to say about a generation that does not even know how to blush. Shame is often a component of true conviction which is fundamental to repentance. Shame is a legitimate emotion when God’s standards are violated. We need not be ashamed of who we are, but rather for what we do. Confusion can also come in when we are made to be ashamed of who we are. Knowing that we are created by God in the image of God should remind us that we should never be ashamed of who we are. As the saying goes, “God does not make junk!” What God has created; however, can create junk--junk that we should be ashamed of creating. And sometimes it takes someone else to remind us that we should feel ashamed for creating it.

When Nathan the prophet told King David, “You are the man.” I doubt he expected David to feel like a winner in that moment. David’s emotions were completely appropriate for that moment. Shame is actually a good emotion; for, like pain, it is an alarm that tells us something is not right. And, like pain, it is also a motivator to start heading in the right direction. Feeling no shame is how our society has arrived at its current moral condition. Pop psychology--not Scripture--is where this notion of shame being a naughty word came from. Views on psychology are continually changing, while God’s Word remains trustworthy through the ages. So, remember that anyone who shames you into believing that shame is a shame is a sham.

Trace Embry is the Founder and Director of Shepherd's Hill Academy, a Christian wilderness and therapeutic residential program, as well as a private accredited school for troubled teenagers. He is the Host of the License to Parent with Trace Embry radio program. He is also a public speaker, and teaches parenting classes. Visit his parenting blog at Insight for Today’s Culture.

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