We are living in a culture of shame, and we saw yesterday how this is creating a cultural problem for us - it creates a distance between us and others and establishes 'us' vs. 'them' mentalities that keep us from truly connecting.
But shame is also dangerous for us personally.
Shame is a tremendous burden to bear because it hits at the very core of who we are. Very few of us are ever simply ashamed of our behavior or of something we've done; shame cuts right down and tells us that whatever we've done is because that's who we are. Our actions are representative of a fundamental flaw in our personality, and that makes it difficult for us to live with ourselves.
Add to that the culture of shame that is ready to shun us, excommunicate us, call us out in the most public ways and make sure that no one ever anywhere again will associate with us, and shame is just soul-crushing. No one wants to hang out with us, and we don't even want to hang out with ourselves. We are lonely, and we are trapped in a deficient spirit that just can't do anything right - or anything honorable.
When shame first hits us, it sends us diving into the bushes, as we've seen when we talk about Adam and Eve. We do everything we can to try to hide our nakedness, to try to cover our exposed flesh. The thing is that society doesn't operate with the same kind of grace that God does, so there's nothing really that can cover our shame. Once we've been exposed, we've been exposed forever, and this world will never let us forget it. We cannot redeem ourselves and the sad truth is, we cannot be redeemed.
So there comes a point in shame where we stop even trying to hide our nakedness. We give up trying to atone for our shortcomings. We don't try to prove ourselves anymore, and we don't believe - because the world has so convinced us - that we can be redeemed. So we come to live defeated lives, just letting our nakedness hang out there because who even cares now? What difference does it make?
But it makes a huge difference.
It makes a huge difference because you can only show up naked to your life for so long. You can only live exposed for so long before it starts eating away at you. There's something in us that just doesn't tolerate our own nakedness, even when we try to pretend that we aren't bothered so much by it. Even when we live in defeat and seem to just accept it, there's something in us that...can't.
Our nakedness then becomes our insecurity, and our insecurity becomes our nakedness. Our shame compounds upon itself and we are ashamed of our shame, but at the same time, we know there is nothing that we can do to alleviate it. We cannot win against shame. Adam and Eve never went back to not knowing their own nakedness.
For many of us, shame bears down on the fragile places that already exist in our soul and the pressure is just too much. The tragedy of shame is that it takes away our living and then, too often, it takes away our life, as those trapped under a burden of shame often choose suicide as the only way out.
And for what? Because they didn't take their cart back to the corral in the parking lot?
The world loves to nitpick when it tears at our flesh, but shame is no little thing. It's a great big thing. It's more powerful than even the world thinks it is, and the world thinks it can harness shame for its own means, but shame doesn't work like that. Once it's here, it's here, and it gets down into the soul and doesn't come out except by the grace of God and even then, only rarely. Our flesh is just so fragile; our spirits are so weak.
And that's why shame is so dangerous. Not just culturally, but personally. It's crushing.
So can we just stop with all the shame already?