A Culture of Shame

A Culture of Shame

Have you ever heard of “imposter syndrome?” Yeah me either, until I discovered it was something that a lot of leaders struggle with. I was being coached by a professional leadership coach and he started talking to me about this common struggle leaders face. Turns out even the most confident among us sometimes think we really aren’t up to the task. Instead of this being a weakness, I discovered my own struggles were a wonderful invitation to repentance and humility. Which, when embraced, brings a sense of peace and rest rather than the frenzied feelings of chaos and “expectations.”

The Good News of our Timeless Orthodox Faith is that we get to embrace honestly our own shortcomings without shame BECAUSE our confidence rests in Jesus Christ, not ourselves!

But it seems we live in a “shame” culture in our modern age. We are shamed for the color of our skin. We are shamed because we are rich or we are poor or we are “privileged” or we are “oppressed,” educated, or uneducated. We hear that our country is an evil country. We are told our Faith is silly and useless. And this bombardment of shame has one goal – destruction. Oh, our shamers will insist it’s about “justice” or “equality” or even the new idol of “equity,” and some of them may even believe that, but they are wrong. The only outcome of this shame-based methodology is destruction. I suspect this is secretly what the shamers want. This is about “revenge” against the people they blame for their own failures and weakness. After all, it could never actually be MY fault!

So, what’s the alternative?

Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 3:4-11:

Brethren, such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.

St. Paul gives us the alternative in Jesus Christ.

First, shame has no hold on me IF my confidence is in Jesus Christ. I’m not the one who has to always be perfect. My confidence is in Him, not myself. Our Orthodox Faith invites me to shift my hope onto Him and not lay all these expectations on myself. When I do that, I am free to actually look at my weak places without shame and actively LIVE a lifestyle of “metania” (repentance). And in that humility, in that repentance, I am able to connect in a deeper way with Jesus Christ, Who IS my confidence. He is competent! I am dependent!

Next, shame flows from a focus on Rules and Regulations. To be sure, these rules and regulations (what St. Paul calls “The Law”) were wonderful because they taught the world eternally valuable principles. And The Law of Moses was surrounded by the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem. The vestments of the priesthood were beautiful. The liturgy of the Temple was beautiful. But all The Law could do, as beautiful as it was, was kill us! The Law only proved that, as hard as we might try, we still needed forgiveness for our frequent stumbles and failing to live up to the standard of The Law. We needed a Savior. We need One Who fulfilled the Law on our behalf!

Finally, shame melts in the Face of Jesus Christ. If The Law, with all its splendor and beauty, ultimately couldn’t foster true life in us, how much more beautiful is the Spirit that does give us life? St. Paul is telling us today that when Jesus Christ comes on the scene, He embodies the fulfillment of what The Law was trying to teach us – that, our own strength will always let us down. It isn’t that our failures make God mad at us or “disappoint” God. The Father already knows we are too weak to scale the ladder of divine ascent by ourselves. No, it’s we hard-headed humans that need to admit we need Someone to save us. And the Father doesn’t disappoint us. He sends His Son, our Lord Jesus in the splendor of the Holy Spirit to awe us with His eternal love and grace!

Today, are you feeling the heavy weight of your failures and your mistakes? Good! Now, instead of the weakness of shame, turn that honest self-knowledge into true repentance, into the splendor of the Spirit Who comes to always forgive and make you strong enough to be Orthodox on Purpose.

P.S Dear Lord, You never shame me. But You always lovingly invite me to know myself in truth. You offer me the path to acknowledge my weaknesses, not in an attempt to shame me or punish me, but to finally bring this brokenness to You for forgiveness and healing! You desire only my health and wholeness. And this loving offer only asks that I be honest. Grant me the courage of that kind of honesty so that I will finally be the man You made me to be! Amen

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