Don’t Be Ashamed!

Don’t Be Ashamed!

Rick Godwin once said: “Shame is probably the hardest emotion to sit with, to express. People go out of their way — people drink themselves to death, people will murder — not to feel shame. It’s that much of a kicker.” Wow. It’s probably very important to get the feelings of shame tamed and discerned in our lives. But how?

Shame is a powerful motivator in our lives. We feel shame at failures or bad choices and we try to hide that shame from others and ourselves. We are rarely successful at this since the consequences of our choices are clearly seen. So, what good is shame? I think shame flows from our insecurity and pride. Amazing, isn’t it, that something as emotionally toxic as shame can result from both fear AND arrogance! But the greater lesson is to learn about ourselves in what we are ashamed of in our lives! What are you ashamed of?

Look at our lesson today in 2 Timothy 1:8-18:

TIMOTHY, my son, do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

St. Paul tells his spiritual son, St. Timothy, not to be ashamed of Christ or his spiritual father. Of course, what drives Paul’s words is that Paul is now in prison and the message of the risen Jesus is starting to cause problems for everyone who believes in the Lord. So Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel or the temporary problems that the message of Jesus may cause those who follow Him.

Of course, shame can keep us silent about our faith. And shame can cause us to be embarrassed by those who boldly teach and live the faith as well. But that feeling of shame says something about us. Where does that feeling of shame or embarrassment come from? It usually flows from my own self-image and how I fear others may see me if I am identified with “those people” of faith. Recently, I was attending my father’s funeral and I was dressed as I am, an Orthodox Christian priest. An old friend of my dad came up to me and said “So, you’ve become a Muslim.” For a second, I was embarrassed and started feeling the first twinges of shame. But then, I recalled that I am not representing myself, but the Lord’s Church. And the shame fled from my heart.

You see, dear one, shame is about you. God is not ashamed of you. Shame is about how you wish others to see you. But do you ever stop to examine if that impression you wish to display is actually good or authentic? If it isn’t then the real you is hidden behind the facade of your hoped-for image. And no life can sustain that level of inauthenticity forever.

The key to avoiding the toxic effects of shame lies in the wisdom St. Paul tells Timothy. First, God’s grace is more powerful than all your mistakes. Always. Next, God’s Faithfulness is always more consistent than your actions. And finally, God’s Strength is always available to you even in your weakness. So, memorize this: God’s Grace, God’s Faithfulness, God’s Strength! Say it to yourself right now.

Listen to what St. John Chrysostom says: “Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent.” The wisdom of learning to discern the proper and sober reaction to feelings of shame always requires us to center our self-image, not in ourselves, but in Christ. I get how I think of myself, how I talk to myself, and how I value myself from outside myself. So, if I focus on less-than-true images of myself, I become a slave to passions and toxic shame. But, if I insist my self-image flows from what Christ makes me through His grace, forgiveness, and love, I am free to truly know myself as I was made to be!

Today, is shame keeping you weak and distant from God and His Church? Are you ashamed of the Faith because of a poor image of what it means to be a person of faith? It’s time to put an end to the false power of shame keeping you from the spiritual medicine to truly heal your life. It’s time to rise up, go to Church, and be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Dear Lord, I struggle with shameful thoughts and a fear of being embarrassed or ashamed in front of others. It makes me afraid to confront my feelings of shame even when I’m speaking with You! Help me see myself as You see me. Grant me the sober wisdom to confront my fear and open my heart to You for Your healing and grace. Give me Your strength when I’m weak and forgive me if I’m ever ashamed of my life in You. Amen

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