For the Shame of it All: Overcoming the Culture of Shame and Guilt

Photo by  Jordan Whitfield  on  Unsplash

We live in a culture where shame and guilt permeates into everything and everyone with an infection so destructive and thorough, it seems there is no antidote.

The proliferation of shame and guilt come in many forms — words, humor/sarcasm, voice inflections, body language, facial expressions, just to name a few. And the only goal of shame and guilt is to destroy someone’s dignity.

Many use shame and guilt to cover up their own insecurities and deficiencies. We see this from the very beginning. Satan, out of his own insecurities and deficiencies, tried to usurp God’s authority and make himself god. When this didn’t work, Satan then pushed his insecurities and deficiencies onto Adam and Eve.

Take a look at Genesis chapter three. Adam and Eve bought into the lies of the serpent and created a situation that brought on themselves both shame and guilt. What’s interesting is what happened next. When God reached out to them, he didn’t tear them down with condemning words or looks.

Instead he spoke truth in love to them. He asked them why they were hiding from him. He wanted to know what caused shame and guilt to fill their hearts — something that He never intended for them to experience.

Their response to God was out of their own condemnation of their self-prescribed shame and guilt because they listened to the lies of Satan. This self-prescribed condemnation wasn’t because they were naked — it’s because they chose themselves over God.

Consequences of shame and guilt.

Photo by  Georgia de Lotz  on  Unsplash

It took God to redeem the situation. God had to move Adam and Eve beyond their shame and guilt so they could be reconciled and restored to their proper place with him. He passed judgment on Satan — the root and cause of this whole debacle; and told everyone how he was going to fix it what was broken — which ultimately led to the cross of Christ (Genesis 3:15).

As a result of their actions Adam and Eve’s lives were made harder — they were thrown out of the garden. But God didn’t abandon them — he even gave them clothing to cover up their nakedness (See Genesis 3:21).

Shame and guilt lead to a loveless and empty life with the ultimate outcome of death.


Shame and Guilt are the opposite of Grace and Forgiveness. Shame and Guilt dishearten and destroy, while Grace and Forgiveness encourage and restore. God never shames or guilts people — it is not in his character or his vocabulary.

God is the opposite of this. Look at Jesus’ words after he confronted the religious leaders who were condemning a blind man for worshipping Jesus after he was healed,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” — John 10:10

Jesus came to give life, not death.

Satan wants you to think your place is among the condemned, but Jesus says your place is right next to him. I love this quote from Dave Stone,

“Satan knows you by your name but calls you by your sin. Jesus knows your sin but calls you by your name.”

Jesus moves us beyond our shame and guilt, and puts us right next to Him. He tells us this is how our Father in heaven sees us — without shame and guilt all because of the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells his followers to be like him and spread the message of love, grace, and forgiveness. Shame and Guilt have no place in Jesus’ Church — these words should be foreign to us and not natural.

Shame and Guilt are the languages of the destroyer, Satan. the Apostle Paul tells Jesus followers to demonstrate a different kind of language — see Ephesians 4:29

We are to be people of a second chance — a second chance on life. That is what grace and forgiveness do — they give us a second chance.

Now, there is a time and place for us to confront people about issues, but it’s not our job to make people feel bad about themselves. What we get to do is to love Jesus and love like him. We get to partner with people who are broken, hurt, lost, and weak.

Grace and forgiveness don’t leave much room for shame and guilt.

When we choose grace and forgiveness we begin to experience the abundant life Jesus came to give us — one that our Father in heaven destined for us from the very beginning.

*This article was first published on Medium | Faith Hacking | @joe.puentes