Shame, Shame, Shame

“When I was your age, I never would have done that!”

“How could you do such a thing when we’ve given you so much?”

“What is the matter with you? Are you stupid or something?”

“You’ve ruined our family’s name and reputation.”

"You're lucky to still be in this school."

None of these statements is imaginary. All of them and many more come from the mouths of Christian parents and Christian authorities to children. They are the totalitarian responses to some action done by a child that has met with disapproval by the adult. The statements deliver nothing but shame, a defeating and debilitating state of mind. The proclamations wound and scar the victim. The accusations offer no help and no way of escape. They widen the chasm between child and authority. They isolate the child, fostering in his mind the lie that no one else but him has ever done anything like the thing he’s done.

In his recent book Parenting, Paul Tripp offers a key truth when he instructs “We are more alike than different.” He isn’t talking facial features or DNA. He’s talking about what goes on in our hearts and what went on in our hearts when we were younger.

If we are honest, we must admit…

  • We are more alike than we are different in our immorality.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our untruthfulness.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our rebellion.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our ingratitude.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our anger.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our complaining.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our foolishness.

Because we are more like our children than we are different, you would think we would express empathy and sympathy toward them. Instead, what too often comes from adult to child is shame, as if “I never!”

When discovering your boy has dabbled with pornography on his iPad, instead of shattering the iPad into a thousand pieces, how about coming alongside your son and empathizing with him because you know what the battle with lust was and how the battle remains. Instead of shaming him for giving into temptation, how about identifying with him as one fallen man to another? How about showing him the way out that you discovered in God’s Word? How about leading him to Jesus who cares more about him than you ever will? You see, you are more like your son than different.

When hearing for the 10,000th time the complaining of your daughter, instead of screaming at her how ungrateful she is, how about coming alongside of her and empathizing with her because you know the battle that rages in your own heart when you don’t get what you want? Instead of shaming her for being an unappreciative brat, how about identifying with her as one fallen woman to another? How about showing her the way out that you discovered in God’s Word? How about leading her to a thankfulness to God that she and you are not burning in hell at this very moment because of God’s unending mercies and abundant grace. You see, you are more like your daughter than different.

As a Christian boy, I heard over and again the dangers of temptation and the recitation of the “thou shalt nots.” I watched what happened to those who were found out, to those who got caught. I witnessed the shame cast down on them for their failures. I made two conclusions: (1) don’t get caught and (2) no adult has any idea what I’m going through; they only want to point out my failures. I learned to hide from anyone who could help me because I was convinced by their shaming of my peers that no one would help me.

When one human being shames another, he establishes a superiority and inferiority that does not exist. None of our sin natures is less corrupt than that of another. We all are undone. All of us are unrighteous (Romans 3). Who do we think we are that we can go around shaming one another for sin and failures? After the fall when their nakedness was uncovered and became a source of shame for both of them, could Adam say to Eve, “Well my nakedness isn’t as bad as yours! Put some leaves on.” Yet, that’s exactly what happens when we shame the fallen nature of others identifying their nakedness but ignoring the reality that we too were once naked but have been covered up by the work of God. We are far more alike than we are different.

The Bible calls us to sympathy and empathy (Galatians 6:1-2). The Bible calls us to lift the fallen. The Bible calls us to embrace the mercy and grace of God for ourselves and for every person close to us.

If you have determined you are more unlike than alike, then that’s straight foolishness.

If you shame another human being – whether a son or daughter or a fellow Christian in our church – well, then, shame on you!

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.