Shepherding Through Shame Webinar
This webinar helps ministers and wives identify when toxic shame is having an impact on the lives of others. Jeff Waibel and Brian Sutter walk through how to counteract shame’s influence while providing help and hope as we encourage God to be the ultimate authority in our lives. Learn more as you watch this webinar recording.
So the topic tonight is Shepherding through Shame. Thank you for joining us for another ACCFS Minister and Wives Webinar. I’m joined, as I said before, with my colleague Matt Kaufmann. I am Arlan Miller and we also are joined tonight and thankful for Brian Sutter, who’s one of the clinical counselors here at ACCFS and works with a variety of different clients and situations and circumstances in his role here.
And we’re also thankful to be joined by Jeff Waibel who’s out in Leo, the deacon there in that church and then also the director of residential services at Gateway Woods and a social worker by training. And so we’re thankful for the conversation we get to have tonight around this important topic of shame and the impact it can have upon the lives of those we work with and our own lives as well. And Matt is gonna lead us in that conversation. And so, Matt, I’ll turn it over to you and let you walk us through the content together.
Thanks, Arlan. I’m excited about this topic, Brian and Jeff, thanks for being on. I’m excited to have this conversation. I think we’ll all benefit from the perspective that you brothers have as it regards shame. And shame is a bit of a buzzword. It has taken on lots of different meanings throughout time, I think, and it certainly carries a great deal of connotation and meaning today. I’d like to start tonight’s presentation, as a backdrop, let’s go back to Genesis 3 as a bit of a backdrop here. And this is a story that we’re all familiar with.
This is when Adam and Eve go into hiding, and I’d like to just read this, but I am so inspired by God in this backdrop. And so we’re gonna highlight that. But I’m just gonna read it right off the screen here. Verse eight. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden and the Lord God called unto Adam and said unto him, where art thou?
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden and was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself. And he said, who told thee that thou was naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree where of I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? So here we have this classic interaction, and this is what’s so moved me, Brian and Jeff, that I wanna supply as our objective for tonight.
And that is we see in God that he is a God who draws people out from hiding. He is a God who goes in and finds the one who’s hiding. And that, I believe is a really refreshing view of God, whom I think most of the world would say no, God scares people into holes. And so I would like to suggest that perhaps our aspiration here, that this content could help us be just that we, following God’s example, would be those who call people out from hiding.
I would love your perspective on that caricature of God and maybe contrasted by what we see in the world and how they might handle hiding. Brian, what do you see when you look at this caricature? Yeah, I mean, I think what strikes me there, as I think about even just Christ and the way that he interacted with people and somehow some way he was so attractive. He was such a safe place for people to go to in a very surprising way as I think of people, the way they maybe would characterize God or how they would view him today. Like you said, they would maybe see him as somebody to turn and want to run away from. But really in Christ’s example, he is somebody to turn to. And if we can represent him and be a safe place for truth and healing to be reflected through, I think that’s a great aspiration for sure.
And even when you look at the example of Christ too, Brian, it’s not just those who agreed with Jesus that came to him, it’s those that we would otherwise think should have been hiding. Somehow, Christ had a presence to bring them out. And I think that’s really inspiring. Jeff. I’d be happy with your thoughts.
I think it is inspiring and certainly what I think in its best sense, we, as the church, should be aspiring to draw people out. I want to go back for just a second though, to this idea of God somehow being this monster in the sky. One of the things that I hear a lot, and maybe all of you hear it as well, around this topic of shame, is this whole idea that shame is a social construct. It’s created by people with power to control and oppress people without power. Maybe you don’t run in circles that have those types of conversations, but it’s something that I’ve heard a number of times and if you take that, it does make a little bit of sense, right? I mean, God does have ultimate power, and so how can he, it’s almost, we humans cannot imagine a being with ultimate power that would not use it in some sort of oppressive way. And so when you start to view God as that oppressive kind of all powerful rule maker who’s just waiting for people to mess up so he can pounce on them, that kind of feeds into this narrative of shame out there and, yeah, it’s a really toxic view of God and I don’t think it’s an accurate one either.
So I think that this is something for all of us to aspire to and we don’t see this illustrated very well at all. And in the public at large, we’re in a cancel culture right now where we correct the ills of our society by canceling people and pushing them into hiding instead of drawing people out for repair. And so this is a really, I think, welcome caricature. It’s knit into God and therefore it’s knit into us as his sons and his daughters. So here’s how I’m gonna lay out there’s really five questions that I’d like to tackle here tonight as time allows. First, what is shame? We have to tease this one out because it, I already mentioned that there’s lots of nuances and so what is shame? We’re gonna spend some time there. Where does shame come from? Number three, what are the effects of shame? What are a few things to remember about shame? So point number four is just some points to bear in mind on how shame works. And then lastly, number five, how do I encourage a person struggling with shame? So very interested to hear your perspective on those.
So let’s start right now with what is shame and, Brian and Jeff and I have had some wonderful dialogue on this and it’s been very, very enlightening. And so I wanna offer this, and then brothers, I want you just to speak up to it. But, as a large umbrella, I think what everybody resonates with is this strong negative emotion that arises from disappointment in one’s self. I’m disappointed in myself, is the seed bed of shame. Now why I’m disappointed in myself. There could be a thousand reasons for that. And so that’s gonna be a kind of a large umbrella, but underneath this umbrella, there’s some finer nuances and I think we want to address the very common biblical use and then talk about this toxic shame, which is really the contemporary use of shame. So let’s tease this. Let’s take a little bit of time right now and tease some of this out. Jeff, I’d love for you to speak to this biblical use of shame. We do see it in the Scriptures. Speak to that and perhaps guilt and how that might interact.
So this is a aha moment that I had a little bit ago, as I was thinking through this topic. There are two groups of people that the Bible says has have no shame. The first group of people are unbelievers who do not know God. So there’s a verse in Zephaniah 3 that says, and I’m gonna just paraphrase it cause I don’t happen to have it right here in front of me, but there’s a verse in Zephaniah 3 that says something along those lines that unbelievers who do not know God, experience no shame. The other group of people that don’t experience shame are believers who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is that whole idea behind Romans 8:1. And, there’s now, therefore no, he doesn’t use the word shame but it’s that idea that who can lay any charge against God’s elect. So there’s two groups of people who experience no shame. They don’t experience this strong negative emotion that arises from this knowledge of sin or this guilt that they understand themselves to be in. The first group is people that don’t see themselves as guilty, complete unbelievers. And then the second group is people who understand that they have been guilty, but also understand that Christ has died for them, thus releasing them from the penalty of their guilt, the consequences of their sin. And so they too have no shame. That idea is what makes this topic so challenging, which has fueled some of our discussion, Matt and Brian and Arlan and I, is shame is tricky to tease out.
And, Brian go ahead and respond to that and maybe speak to the toxic shame and what that looks.
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s well laid out. And I think it’s a tricky space like we’ve already talked about, is in some ways whenever we sit and are talking about a topic with anyone, many times we are defining things in our own mind differently than the other person is. And so it’s often really wise, anytime we’re having discussion, is to begin to frame those up and make sure that we are talking about the same thing. Cuz depending on how you’re viewing shame, you can view shame more through like a guilt lens or you can view it more through like a toxic kind of, I’m a terrible mistake, there’s nothing good about me I’m hopeless. More of a toxic shame. And that would be the kind of the, like Matt said, the contemporary definition. A lot of times, that’s used with shame, but not always necessarily how it’s framed in the Scriptures and it can create a great deal of confusion which are we talking about?
And the reality too, as Jeff talked about, even though the believer is not to experience shame in the sense that they’ve had their shame removed and dealt with by Christ, that many actually experience the emotion of shame. And, therefore it brings in the question, how do we even view emotions? And what is our perspective on emotions? And takes us into lots of different questions as we think through it a bit.
I think that’s a critical delineation there, Brian, when you talk about guilt being a feeling and emotion, and I believe Jeff, the way that you used guilt, it was a matter of a legal standing, a person is guilty, therefore they feel a negative emotion that rises from that, in which case the Bible often calls that shame.
And yet in our language, we use guilt as an emotion and we feel guilt. And sometimes, shame takes on then another nuance. And we’re gonna coin that or say that as toxic shame. So let’s tease out now, guilt as a feeling, because certainly that has important place in an unbeliever’s life and a believer’s life. Brian, speak to that.
Yeah, no question. I think, and in that sense, I think we wanna look at emotions as something that’s helpful in the sense that it does inform us, it informs us of something, but also to acknowledge that at times what it’s informing us of is not true. But for the believer, guilt can be informing us that we have stepped away from God’s law, his direction, and therefore there’s that guilt of, oh, I need to move back closer to the Lord in relationship with him. For the unbeliever, as Romans would tell us, I mean, it’s like the evidence that’s piling up against them, that they are breaking God’s law. And, there’s guilt without the remedy for the unbeliever in that unbelieving state.
I appreciate that, Brian. Jeff, any clarity?
Yeah, I think maybe it would be most helpful to talk through some specific situations. So let’s say you have a young man in your congregation, a convert, let’s say, who is struggling with sexual sin, pornography use, or something like that. So that young man comes to you and he is deeply ashamed of his behavior. He understands that he is guilty. He understands that what he is doing is against God’s law and he understands that it’s harmful to himself. And so he has an understanding of his guilt before God, and he feels naturally shameful that this negative, strong, negative emotion that rises from disappointment. So, he feels that, and I believe that that in that moment is a gift from God. This grieving over sin, this deep, just wishing that you had not done what you had done.
Now imagine that you have an elderly sister who comes to you and says, when I was a teenager, I fell into sin with a young man. And I have repented of it. It was preconversion. I’ve repented of it. I believe that God has forgiven me, but I still feel shame around it. I still feel this oppressive weight of it. And it taints everything that I do. It taints everything that I look at in my life. I struggle to be in deep relationships with the people around me because I just feel this overwhelming sense of shame. That’s toxic. That’s not what God would want for us. God does not hold this over our heads. It is forgiven. It’s been laid at the foot of the cross. Jesus has taken it down into the grave, and it is done. So that’s a toxic shame moment for her.
Brian, can we take and can we see toxic shame, a possibility for toxic shame in the former example of the young man with sexual sin. I think as Jeff explained it, there was a holy and appropriate remorse and shame. What would a toxic shame look like for that particular individual if we were to go another distance.
I think that makes a great deal of sense. I think sometimes in the young man that Jeff’s using, that example could come and follow the biblical instruction around recognition of sin and confession and repentance, and yet still feel this strong sense of there’s no way for this to be repaired. There’s no way for me to be in right relationship. There’s these messages and lies that tack onto it. So it moves from guilt into a real sorrowful and appropriate shame into a toxic shame and that would happen when it becomes, I am unredeemable because of this sin, even though the Scriptures would say otherwise. So it can jump on the back end of that at times, for sure.
And, the way that you explained that, Brian, I can see that person recoiling into isolation. I could see them recoiling away from God as opposed to coming to him as God is calling to him. Is that a fair delineation between toxic shame, sending you away and feeling this healthy guilt that’s bringing a person towards God.
Right. Definitely. And then that toxic shame, not only keeping you away from God, I can’t read the Scriptures because when I do, it just reminds me of how angry he must be at me, or I can’t go to church because, and I can’t seek out those that could shepherd me through the shame, if they knew about this, if they knew what was going inside of me, they would just reject me. And, that toxic shame will tend to move in that direction.
So I think there’s so much that could be said here. I appreciate both of you brothers really teasing this out. We want to handle this topic very carefully because it’s very loaded in many ways, but I think you’ve helped us see the toxic shame from the common biblical use. And so what we’re gonna do is narrow in for the remaining part of this conversation, we are really going to focus on the toxic shame.
Okay? So that is going to be our working definition. So, this idea, the working definition for this webinar will be the idea that a person is at their core, bad, unwanted, beyond repair. Which can be very present in a person’s life. This is a person who is recoiling. It’s, almost as if God’s banner that this is my creation, I’m well pleased, has been completely flipped. And, they are at the core beyond repair. We can see the desperate nature of this. So this is going to be the definition as we speak of shame moving forward. We’re really thinking about this toxic shame that can really play in a person’s life. So that’s what shame is. Now let’s move along and talk a little bit about where does shame come from and we’ve got a diagram here. We’ve talked about sin already and I think we can very easily make the connections for that. But it’s not only sin that causes a person to say that I am worthless. I would love to you brothers to speak to any of these other words and help our listeners understand how shame can be attached to these.
Well, I can jump in here. The one that jumps off the page for me is hurt. I work professionally with parents and children and, I’ll just say it out loud, something we’re all thinking it is a favorite tool of parents to try to shame their child into good behavior. I don’t know if you’ve ever had any kids or if you’ve ever had kids that were unruly ever. I’ve had a few of those and there’s nothing more embarrassing than walking through the grocery store and one of them’s throwing a fit because you’re not buying ’em something or not getting their favorite cereal. Or maybe you walk past the gumball machine without putting a quarter in. And so you’re whispering down in their ear as they’re flailing and making a ruckus. You whisper down in their ears some sort of really hurtful statement intended to shame them into quietness. Like, I can’t believe you’re doing this to me, or something along those lines.
So the thing I think that jumps out to me is how often we as parents maybe with good intentions, let’s call it that, but sometimes veer into this idea of using shame to try to get a child to do something or to not do something. You would never do that to your mother. You would never put our family in that position. I don’t know what sorts of maybe calling someone a black sheep of the family. That’s kind of a shame.
Or Jeff, one thing that comes to me and is saying that nobody else is like this. Yeah. That comes so easily in my mind that everybody else can do this. It’s, at the core, it’s a very shaming comment.
Yep. Exactly. I think from that perspective, I think to see that shame comes from lots of different places. And in the example of hurt or loss, for example, there are things that can just happen to us. They’re not necessarily things as the parent, we are the ones shaming, but as the child, you are just getting the shame poured on you, even though you may not have deserved it in those contexts, certainly that you could say that the child was doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. But I think to one other point there would be just that with each of these, there can be different levels. So Jeff’s talking about hurts there, that I would say are small hurts, but those can pile up and create just as much shame. But then, it’s not just the big H hurts that hurt, like somebody walking through abuse or those sorts of things.
But, and maybe a different category I’d move into would just be the sense of rejection. And again, that can happen on different layers. When you’re at church on a Sunday afternoon and somebody walks right by, shame comes from the meaning that we put towards events. And if the meaning, oh, they want nothing to do with me, then that becomes a shaming event, even though it may not have been intended that way. And you see that sense of rejection for our young people, whether that’s not getting invited somewhere or, those sorts of things can pile up and make someone feel that sense of unworthiness, I don’t belong, I don’t fit, I’m broken. So that would be one that comes to mind there.
I think those are excellent examples, and I think those examples help us see where shame can come. I think that inabilities really strikes close to even the example that you gave there, Brian. That I simply can’t do X, Y, or Z like somebody else can do. Somebody can really run a shame script in their mind. Can be birthed from that inability. And, so now I just dropped shame script. And so I’d like one of you to help us understand what we mean by a shame script. That’s a little bit of, maybe counselor, go ahead, Jeff, I’ll let you tackle that one.
Well, how about if I say a few things and then Brian cleans it up? Okay, fair enough. So when I think of a shame script, it’s these messages that we internalize and play over and over in our minds. Maybe not audibly, but the things that we say to ourselves. So let’s say that maybe somebody once in our life called us fat or called us stupid, or you’ll never amount to anything.
And somehow that script has kept playing over and over in our minds. For some people that becomes motivation. I’m gonna show them. For other people, it becomes determination. Like this is just who I am. I am like this. Especially if that’s a parent or a minister or somebody. A teacher, somebody in a position of influence says something hurtful like that becomes a script that’s playing over and over in their mind.
I’ll use another one of these as an example. So the inability one. So I’ve had a number of times in my life where I had to take a test that had big consequences. Like, if you don’t pass this test, you don’t get a license and you don’t get a license, you can’t work for example. There are people out there who take those tests over and over and over and just can’t seem to pass ’em. Eventually that becomes self-fulfilling. You know, they just go into the test saying, I can’t pass it. I’ve never passed it. I’ve tried it three times and I’m just destined to fail it. And that becomes prophecy almost.
I think that’s a really good example. We could, let’s move now to look at what the effects of shame. Let’s see what this does. We see that it comes from many different places, and then the effects of shame, there’s a little bit of a shape to shame, where we have, for example, a belittling event. Jeff, you just gave lots of good examples of belittling events. Brian, you’ve mentioned they can compact themselves.
And then a lie is more. The example there on the screen is I’ll never amount to anything. There’s a thousand other lies, which then has an effect. Lies have an effect, isolating, hopelessness, bitterness. Brian, speak to those, any one of those three effects or a different effect?
Well, I think the thing that strikes me here in this space, what I think for all of us, if we can understand how shame works on our own life and heart and have a feel for, I know generally speaking, when X happens, here’s gonna be the messages that come up in my mind. So for example, as a Sunday school teacher, if somebody else in my class has a really great lesson, I know shame is gonna say the lie, boy, none of these students think you are any good at this. And then the effect is gonna be just pulling out of roles that where I’d be put in that spot of teaching and so if we all can know the general default setting that shame brings, how it tends to happen, then that can hopefully help us.
I’ve moved into the what to do with it. So I’m not following. That’s fine. Go there. But, if we know that, then that can help us know how to interact with it. But the effects are gonna generally be moving us away from people out of relationship where shame is present, it’s gonna really disintegrate connection and relationship between people in general. So whenever that’s our pull, and it’s not like pulling back because I need space and rest. It’s, I can’t let anybody see me or know me. And that in a general sense, is the effect of shame of this toxic shame.
Well said, Jeff. Speak to this shape that we see in front of us. I was just, as Brian was talking, I was just thinking of back through some situations where we’ve had church discipline events and, probably most of you on this call have at least heard of or maybe been involved in a church where they had to place someone under discipline. Good discipline can be a really God-honoring thing. Unfortunately, however I’ve seen it go into this shame cycle and it creates a lie in the mind of the person who is placed under discipline and then instead of pushing in, and in repentance, they withdraw out of hurt and they isolate themselves. They stop coming to church. Maybe you hear that they’re going to a different church down the road and that they don’t know anything about what they did. And, or sometimes, heaven forbid, they leave the faith completely and cast aside God or any claim that they would have to Jesus. I don’t know. I’ve just seen a number of these kind of tragic situations like that. It’s that isolation, that shame can bring into people’s lives.
I think what a call then to be like God and to be the one who calls them out of hiding. But that shame script is real, and I’m thinking of an example of an individual that I’ve reached out to regarding restoration and moving that direction. And, there were so many years of shame script that it was like that individual taking that test that didn’t feel like he would ever be able to take that test and pass it. And but I think going back to Brian, your point here is we win this battle at the lie level. Is that a true statement?
Yeah. Well, I think that’s at least if we can be aware of that and be skeptical, at least give it pause and say, wait this is what it’s telling me. Does that actually align with what I would say is my ultimate authority? Because what shame wants to be is the ultimate authority. And when it gets to be the ultimate authority, then it speaks messages that don’t feel like lies and therefore we just swallow them whole as if they’re truth. So yeah, if we can understand what is our authority, what is below the lie, that gives us a chance to at least be skeptical towards the message. Especially if we’re plugged into the Scriptures, plugged into other believers that can say, okay, wait a second. What you’re saying doesn’t seem like that quite lines up here. Let’s at least give this pause and consider it.
I appreciate that. And it actually makes me think so much of the New Testament, so much of Paul’s writing is just an account, a telling of the people on who they are, and the right thinking about who they are. He shared the gospel with believers as much as he shared it with unbelievers, didn’t he? And I just think there’s something really powerful with that. And, no doubt that’s so helpful in rewriting our shame script.
We’re gonna go now. So we see that shame has effect. Okay. So, and again, we’re talking about this toxic shame here, that I am broken without repair. I should be refused by God and by everybody. And, it’s going to have an effect. And that effect is not good. It’s gonna be isolating, it’s gonna be hopeless, and it’s gonna be bitterness. And there’s a lie that’s being played here. So we’re gonna go now to this next, which is just basically a few points to consider. Remember these things are true about shame. Right off the top is shame shames. Brian speak to that.
Well, I think one of ’em that’s where this one starts here is just the recognition that we all carry shame around in us to some level. And that shame often is gonna lead us to shaming others. Like in Jeff’s earlier example of our kids. Or if somebody’s coming to us for support or mentoring, counsel, those sorts of things. Our own shame inside of us when that gets triggered. What it tends to do is we get really defensive and we want to go into hiding or self-protection and that comes out and actually hurts or shames the other person. And for us to be aware of where our shame lies in us and how it can maybe come out and then shame the people that we’re actually trying to love and care for. I appreciate that. Hey, I’m gonna raise a question that was actually posed in when folks signed in, and I thought it was a very insightful question.
I’ve dealt with it as well, and it was simply when shame rears itself while we’re preaching. You read something. And you’re like, oh, this is so convicting to me. Maybe it’s shame, I feel that guilt. And so, Brian, you know at a macro level of dealing with our own shame, so we could be healthy, but there’s this spur of the moment that happens as well. So let’s put Jeff Spur of the moment on that question.
So man, I wish I could say this has never happened to me when I was reading through some passage of Scripture or speaking on some topic and the Spirit of the Living God smacks me between the eyes on with that particular truth. I have known preachers and ministers out there who capitalize on those moments by just confessing their own emotion at that moment. Like, this passage is really hitting me right now about myself, or something along those lines. I think that can be appropriate. It can be inappropriate depending on how far down the road you go with about what you’re feeling.
But, I think it’s good. So I had this thought the other day. Being a minister of God’s Word is first and foremost experiential. I think we think of it as a knowledge thing. Like, I just need to learn a whole bunch of stuff. I need to have right theology, I need to, man, if I can just wrap my mind around some Hebrew and Greek or if I can just figure out which of the epistles are about which things and point people in the right direction.
We think of it as a knowledge thing. I think ministering God’s Word is first and foremost an experiential thing. We have to be under the influence of God’s Word before we can wield it effectively from the pulpit. I think that this whole idea of you’re reading through Scripture and God is taking you to task on your own thoughts or on your own actions or on your own parenting or on your own unconfessed moment of sin or whatever it is, when God is doing those things, that is a gift from God. And it is meant to drive us to our knees. I think it’s meant to humble us, and you will, in my opinion, and it’s only my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth, you will be a better minister of God’s Word if you open your heart to that moment when it happens. And by the way, I think it should happen probably quite a bit. Just, at least that’s the way it happens for me.
Well said. Thanks, Jeff, for that. The second one we’ve addressed about the shame script, so let’s skip that one. Let’s go to the third one. We will shame and we will be shamed. Brian, speak to this. What is it that we’re getting across?
Yeah, I mean, I think the main thing here again is just to recognize that we will experience shame and that we will shame others. And, part of it is just being aware of that. And the goal in this sense is not to just eradicate shame. Sure, that would be nice but I don’t think that’s gonna happen on this side of final redemption. So in that sense, it’s a part of acknowledging that shame is part of the story right now. And I think, like Jeff just talked about, I think it’s one of the things that can faithfully point us back to hope in Christ.
And, in that too, for us to recognize and be aware of when we may have shamed someone, maybe even unintentionally like this next bullet, we’ll talk about. But being quick to go back and just say, you know what, when we were talking over lunch, I know I was really distracted, but I just want you to know that wasn’t about you. I’m sorry. That’s a small thing, but just to be quick to apologize or after we meet with somebody, this happens regularly with me and in the counseling room that I’ll realize afterwards I pushed too hard or I said something that I shouldn’t have said. And being able to just say, I’m really sorry. That was not my intention and making sure that the meaning that gets put to that is clarified and that I’m willing to acknowledge wrongdoing in that regard.
I think that’s excellent, Brian, and you’ve really led now to the last slide. And, so we’re gonna have some time for questions. If you wanna be chatting those in Arlan,Miller will curate those. So you can just be thinking about that. We are nearing the end here. But the last question that we were gonna address here tonight was, how do I encourage a person struggling in shame? Brian, you really did a nice job with that and we’ve already mentioned some things. And so would love to hear both of you. You both work with clients and young people, and parishioners, those that have dealt with shame. Would love for you to just speak to the listeners here tonight and give us some help here. What are some things to bear in mind, Jeff?
Yeah, I tell people all the time that the truth of the gospel is that we are not defined by our worst moments. I saw this meme the other day, and it really struck me in this sense. It was a picture of the Apostle Paul and it said, I’m gonna paraphrase, but it’s something like this, Paul entered heaven to the applause of people he martyred. That’s the gospel. It’s this idea that your worst moments do not define who you are as a person. There have been times in each of our lives when we have sinned and sometimes sinned profoundly. The beauty of the gospel is that we can be forgiven of our sin through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And as ministers, that word minister is we are applying salve, we are applying ointment of God’s Word to people who are hurting. And what better time to do that than when somebody is struggling with shame. Thanks Brian.
Yeah, so good. And I think along those lines just helping individuals wrap their minds around that, whether it’s their sin or their experiences or the challenges that they’ve walked through, those things bring messages. They bring emotions, but they do not disqualify them from God’s grace. And that’s part of what shame wants to perpetuate, what shame wants to communicate. And so I would just wanna encourage people in that. I think another thing to keep in mind with shame is that it’s gonna be a slow journey often.
And, one of the things that we often try to do in trying to overcome shame is use logic to just muscle through shame and logic is important. We want truth to reshape and again, to have some hesitation with the lies that shame brings, but logic not do it alone.
So we’re gonna need more than logic. We want to bring truth, we want to bring truth of the Scriptures, but also to be patient to recognize healing from shame is gonna take time and logic and relationship or experience in a relational context. So sitting and just sitting with someone, being patient are all gonna be really important keys in that and not to get really discouraged when shame is just taking hold and won’t seem to let go of.
You know what, Brian, as you talked about, shame reversing that script takes. You had started by saying that shaming happens over time. Sure. And so reversing that script is going to take time as well. And just to tag on to your, the logic I think is so true. I can tell a person, you are a beautiful human being. Right? You are a beautiful human. I can say that. And hopes that changes it in their head. But when I believe it and respond to them like they’re a beautiful human being, that is gonna go the miles over time.
So, I think part of the change scrub that’s really exciting is we do have to have God’s mind towards people. And if I’m going to reverse a lie that a person has, I’m gonna have to believe the truth. And, so our feet are really held to the fire of that. We’ve had a great question. Maybe you saw it come through about cross-cultural interaction. So this came from our brethren from Mexico who are in a shame culture. Let me read it here. Can you address cross-cultural situations where people come from more shame based cultures? That is a challenge, and I would love these brothers to speak to it. I’m sure they could speak to it. But I love, Brian and Jeff go ahead and attempt to address that.
Brian, do you wanna take a stab at that? Yeah, sure. I can take a stab. Well, I think it’s just to know that if somebody’s growing up in a shame culture, I think that’s really helpful. And generally what that’s gonna mean is that it’s more about the group saving face and that part of your role in a group is to help the group save face. And so if you’re dealing with the shame script to figure out what is the script that’s coming along with that, what are some of the lies and helping them tease out what does it look like to be a part of a group. And, I think in that sense, I think the Scriptures would encourage us that we can unite around what is true and unite around the truth of the gospel. But there’s also room for variance and difference. And to be able to know what that looks like in that particular culture and how that maybe would speak into that lie. But yeah, that’s a tricky one. I don’t know what you would add to that or think there, Jeff.
Yeah, I do like what you’re saying. A couple of thoughts that came to my mind is, first of all, I think the love of Christ, the message of Jesus transcends culture in some very simple and profound ways. Jesus was interacting with a culture very different than our Western American culture today. And I think the same messages that he was able to get across to people like Zacchaeus, to people who were stricken with leprosy, to people who were prostitutes, tax collectors, the same message that he was able to get across. I see you, you’re worth something. And by the way, I want to come to your house. I wanna spend time with you. Why don’t you follow me?
Those same messages, I think, will cut through some of that stuff. I don’t deny, however, that those cultural antecedents are very, very strong and it probably would be a good idea to get a little bit of help too in those situations. Find somebody who knows the culture and knows how to minister in that culture. Know your limits, I guess I would say.
And those shame cultures have tremendous beauty because of that shame culture, and so it’s very useful in so many ways, right? And so there’s a lot to untangle there. Which makes it pretty difficult as well because no doubt a lot of the value that that culture brings and contributes is knit with the shame culture that drives it. And so those things are tough. So tough. So I’m not gonna make it sound easy, but I thought. Remembering that it’s about a group. And I really like that Brian and Jeff, as you tied the gospel into it, that there is a group, Jesus is about a group. And that church is a community. And we are saved from an old community to a new community in Christ. And so there’s some tremendous redemption there as well. Thanks for that question, brother Matt. And I appreciate that.
We’ve got another one, and I’ll read that here. Help us with the shame around discipline and how can we be sensitive from the beginning after confession. I think this is a tremendous question. How in that moment of confession, coach us in that moment of confession? How should we respond? Should we drop our jaw? Should we tense up? Should we, because we want to do all of these things? I mean, I’m not sure we even have time to think about it.
Yeah, I can say a couple things. One, whenever somebody confesses a sin to me, I try to express profound gratitude. First of all, I’m grateful that the Spirit has driven them to confession, that they are feeling the prick of the Holy Spirit. And so I always express thankfulness for that and gratitude that they took that step to come and talk about it. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be consequences to their sin. There always is consequences at some level or another. I can be tremendously encouraged. I also think it’s important, especially when it’s a sin that affects other people in profound ways.
I think it’s also appropriate to be grieved by it. I think sin does lead to grief. So I wouldn’t try to hold back on that like you’re some sort of superhuman. I don’t want to say that you should just weep in front of them either that can be shaming in and of itself, but I don’t think you have to just say, pretend that it doesn’t affect you at all. Of course it is. Especially when people are getting hurt.
Thanks for that, Jeff. Brian, anything you wanna add to that? No, I think similar thoughts just to start with the gratitude and connecting with them and to not feel like you have to minimize the sin or increase it. Like just to be able to be grateful for their sharing, to connect with them and give them experience of, I hear you, I see your brokenness, I see the ugliness. I recognize it and validate it, and I can still love and care about you as a person. Where we go from here, we’ll figure that out. I think that would maybe be the one thing to be careful with that. I think sometimes in our mind, we start to think, okay, what am I, what’s the next step? What am I supposed to do rather than just staying in the moment with the individual and depending on the context and what it is at times, sometimes we need to get some level of detail.
Again, we want to give them the sense that, okay, I’ve been able to confess what I felt like I needed to confess what the Lord has put on my heart for confession. And then I can walk through the rest of the process of restoration.
And, I’m just gonna accent some points, accent some words that you’ve said. Having hope be a part of that interaction. Having this idea that a person is not defined by this worst moment, a part of that moment, drawing them out and a part of that restoration a part of that moment. I think there’s a lot of very helpful words that help fill out maybe what that moment could possibly be. Great question. Great question. And it’s not easy, but it does matter.
I would also, wanna make a couple other observations. First off, and I think, Brian, you alluded to this, you don’t, when somebody comes and says, hey, I want to talk to you, and then they come and they spill their guts on some very sensitive thing or some sin issue in their life, you don’t have to have all the answers at that moment. I think it’s good to, in that moment, speak to it, open Scripture together, pray with ’em, express your gratitude. But I think it’s okay to say, I’m not sure what to do next. I’m gonna have to get back with you. I’m gonna have to get some advice and get back. I think that’s okay. So give yourself a little grace in those situations.
The other point I would make is, I’m sure some of you have experienced this, but confession tends to be a little bit like peeling an onion. You get through one layer and you start asking a few questions and you find out there’s a layer underneath, and then there’s a layer underneath that. So, it’s tricky business talking through these things with people. Give it time, maybe multiple meetings. Get advice. Know your limitations.
Brian? I’d have to, I think I heard you say, when you talked about asking questions and deeper questions, and I’m wondering if that’s a little bit what you were thinking too in terms of the onion and that in that moment of confession, it’s really important to allow it to happen fully, right rather than happens somewhat, right? I don’t wanna put words in.
No, absolutely. That was very, very much along the lines of what I was thinking. I think it’s very easy for someone to come with confession and we say, oh, thanks for sharing. But they’ve just begun and we’ve shut it down, but instead, okay, thanks for sharing and be open to continuing the conversation. Okay. Anything else or what exactly are you referring to? And, it can move, confession of sin is painful. It is hard, and it’s not that we have to get every detail, but to say I viewed pornography is helpful but that doesn’t give you a lot of information and maybe their level, they need to keep moving to shame to actually expose what’s going on in a way that’s gonna be helpful and help them feel like, okay, it’s been shared, it has been confessed. Or, they’ll toe into the water like Jeff said, and then you meet again, and then you find out a little bit more.
And what you originally were thinking is actually quite different than what’s really underneath of the surface there. And, just to be open to that and keep pressing, not in a way of getting more information, but in a way of like, I want you to be able to be free. And, they’ll be able to feel the difference there. So we have to be careful, I think.
I really appreciate that. And we’re right here at the bottom of the hour, Arlan. I’m gonna turn it over to here real shortly, but I just want to accent this, Brian, in that example and what you just shared in Jeff, you as well, you had this attribute, this caricature of God, that this webinar has been about one of entreating, a person out from hiding. That’s why you would take great deal of care in that confession. That shutting it down is not in that caricature of God, which wants that person to come out in fullness. So thank you for sharing that and all of your thoughts. Brother Arlan.
Thank you so much for everything that was shared and from the distinguishment between toxic shame and shame and the discussion about guilt. And just several thoughts that were shared throughout about the impact that it can have upon our lives and upon the lives of those that we interact with and that church setting. And, I think that idea of speaking and letting God speak to their being over their behavior and their circumstances is a really powerful thing. Having that mind of God in ourselves will review those that we interact with and those that we love and go to church with and work with, with the same lens, the same eyes that God sees them. The love for the core of their being that he has is really powerful.
So thank you Brian and Jeff for joining us. Thank you all who joined us tonight. We really appreciate it. We have a couple more webinars this year upcoming. You can find those on our website and in the events category under upcoming webinars. It’s there along with the other events that we host and are active with at ACCFS.