We Need More Shame, not Less

by | 17 May, 2019 | 0 comments

“Sports Illustrate Swimsuit Features Obese Model” trumpeted the headline.

As obese model Hunter McGrady explains, “Exposure to diversity is the catalyst that will ignite tolerance, acceptance and understanding.” She goes on to speak of inclusivity while denouncing her haters, those who would shame her for her weight.

She’s not going to take it. Maybe you won’t either.

Can we just quit with the shaming already?

About Shame

Our nation wages a full-out assault on shame.

Merriam-Webster defines shame as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” The verb form is “to make (someone) feel ashamed.”

A quick internet search reveals numerous types of shaming. I never knew there were so many. Two that I’d heard of:

Fat-shaming—making people feel poorly about themselves for being overweight.

Slut-shaming—making women (I guess it’s reserved for women, but in this day, what is a woman anyway?) feel bad for how they dress, too revealing, or how they act, too promiscuous.

There’s more. There is LGBT-shaming, casting derision at those merely living out who they were made to be. Mom-shaming—making mothers feel inadequate at how they raise their children or casting aspersions at working mothers or stay-at-home mothers. Other forms of body shaming. Breast-feeding shaming. There is mental-illness shaming. The list goes on.

And everywhere you turn, someone is combatting shame, taking a stand against shame, standing up to those who shame.

          “We won’t be ashamed!” is the unified cry of the victims of shaming.

Resolutely our nation rallies around them. We hold them up as examples of virtue. We laud their courage. We stand by them. We put them on the cover of magazines and proudly declare our shamelessness. We give them awards, think Bruce Jenner.

The problem is…

     …we need more shame, not less.

In our collective lack of a proper biblical worldview, we frame the problem completely wrong. It’s like asking, “what’s two plus two?” and answering, “stereotypes” or “papas fritas”.

When it comes to shame, the world speaks a much different language than God.

Hating Shame

Men hate shame, and why wouldn’t they?

They hate God.

Men love their sin, they revel in it and though they know that God exists—creation testifies loud and clear to His existence and therefore they are without excuse —they reject Him, trading the truth about God for a lie. They worship and serve the created thing (us) rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:18-23)

We want to sin…without consequence, without judgement, without guilt, and ultimately, without shame.

The idea that my actions that I love or the things that bring me pleasure might be shameful bristles my sinful heart, my rebellious spirit. The definition proves useful. I am conscious, I know that what am doing is wrong, and I don’t like it.

Paul, in the same passage, speaks to “men committing shameless acts with men” as a God-given judgment upon the rejection of Him. Shamelessness, a lack of shame for things that we know are wrong, wickedly reflects the elevation of self above God.

Shame undermines our idolatry, and we don’t like it.

Our only possible recourse is to go on the offensive, to declare that which is wrong right and to resolutely and publicly defend it. I hate sinning in the shadows, so I’ll drag it into the light and declare it virtuous.

Needing Shame

Shame is good, necessary. Godly shame that is.

All this chatter merely distracts us from this critical truth—there are certain things of which we ought to be ashamed. Where the action violates a biblical command, reveals a sinful heart, or otherwise goes against the word of God, we ought to be ashamed.

We need shame.

Paul tells us about “godly grief” that “produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Shame, understanding that my sin grieves God, yields godly grief that drives me to repentance.

Consider David’s view of his sin. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4) He sees his sin for exactly what it is, an affront against a holy and righteous God.

The very word “confession” is telling. Confession is not telling God about my sin. He already knows. Confession is agreeing with God about my sin. I see it the same as He does, and I am ashamed, and it grieves me as it grieves Him…and it drive me to repentance…

…and to restoration!

David pleads of God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:13) Paul writes about “the things of which you are now ashamed”. (Romans 6:21) Once, they were not ashamed, they sinned without shame, but the Spirit convicted them of their sin, their shame drove them to grief and ultimately, repentance.

Here is joy.

Once forgiven, as God promises to those who confess, I no longer bear the burden of shame and guilt. I can set them aside and run with endurance the race set before me and like Christ, despise the shame as He did, free to love and to serve, in purity. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Absent shame, I’ll never get there.

Be Ashamed

Back to Hunter McGrady.

Let us unpack this contemporary example and see it as God sees it. Should Hunter McGrady be ashamed? The answer is simple. Yes…but not for the reason you may think.

She ought to repent and put on some clothes and reserve the sight of her near-naked body and sultry poses for her future husband. She’s not alone. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue itself is a display of unadulterated pseudo-porn and always has been.

But should she be fat-shamed?

She proudly flaunts her obesity, but I don’t know the origin. Does she have a medical condition? Is she genetically predisposed to be heavy-set or does her obesity stem from gluttony and a lack of self-control when it comes to food? If so, then her obesity is but a visible and obvious manifestation of the sin in her heart and yes, she ought to be ashamed for this.

And she ought to repent and resolve to treat her body as God would have her treat it.

Should we slut-shame someone? Again, it depends upon what you mean.

Should women (or men) who flaunt their sexuality through their appearance and how they dress be ashamed? Yes. Modesty is a cherished biblical virtue and when we willingly discard it as so many are wont to do, we ought to feel shame…and we ought to repent and cover ourselves up, reserving the site of our naked or near-naked bodies for our spouses.

What about promiscuity with regards to slut-shaming? Just like with the other issues, the action is a clear violation of God’s commandments, forbidding sexual liaison outside of a marriage—sigh—a marriage between a man and a woman.

So yes, sluts ought to be ashamed…and players too, and porn-consumers, and men ogling Hunter McGrady and her curves in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Let shame drive us where we need to go.

Be Restored

Perhaps my favorite verse in Scripture, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Examine your actions. Examine your heart. Allow God through Scripture to do the same and reveal to you the ungodliness in your life. As you feel the weight of conviction of the Holy Spirit, feel shame for that which is shameful…and repent, and be restored!

It’s what God does.

He is in the business of calling people out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.

Yield to that today. Let shame be a vehicle to bring you there.

Now here is something worth celebrating.


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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).


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