The Origins of Shame

5 Mins read

Romans 10:10-11 (NIV)
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, fand it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Shame is a powerful tool of Satan. When he can weigh us down with shame and self-condemnation, he can drive a wedge between us and God. While we know that God loves pouring out grace, mercy, and forgiveness on humanity, Satan’s ability to keep us bound up in shame can cause us to miss out on those things.

While we all have parts of our stories that we’re not proud of, we are not doomed to spend our lives dealing with shame. Yes, when we initially repent and give our lives to Christ, He wants us to do so with a “broken heart and an apologetic spirit” (Psalm 51:17). However, God wants that to be the last time that you experience true shame.

In Scripture, Satan is referred to as “the accuser of the church” (Revelation 12:10). He loves to take note of our mistakes so he can use shame to leave us feeling completely unable to move forward. There are times where we’re not even sure where the feelings of shame and condemnation come from.

One of the most powerful ways to overcome shame is to find out where it begins so we can cut it off there. Today, let’s take a look at the origins of shame so we can better identify things in our lives that will leave us feeling ashamed. When you know how to cut shame off at the pass, you can disarm the enemy and set yourself up for the type of guilt-free life that God wants for you.

Adam and Eve: The Original Sin, and the Original Shame
Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Shame is not an emotion that exists within our God. After all, why would it? God has never committed any sin. God has never done anything wrong at all. Shame is the direct result of sinful behavior.

When God first made Adam and Eve, shame was never part of the equation. God had set them up for sinless lives, which would have produced shameless lives. In the same way that God doesn’t know shame, He didn’t want Adam and Eve to.

Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV)
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

When God told Adam and Eve that they couldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it’s wasn’t an effort to keep them from anything good. He didn’t put something in the garden that would benefit them so He could hold them back from experiencing something that would improve their lives. Instead, God knew that when they knew the difference in good and evil, they would know shame.

The rules that God has for us to follow aren’t put in place because He wants to keep us from anything good. Instead, He is trying to keep us from things that will lead to shame. When you were a child, your parents probably didn’t allow you to cut your own hair. Why? Because they didn’t want you to go to school with chunks of hair missing. It’s not that they wanted to suppress your creativity. Instead, they knew that you would be picked on by the other kids when you had crooked bangs and pieces of your hair removed.

When God keeps us from something, it’s because He knows that it will make our lives worse. In the same way that He didn’t want Adam and Eve to know about good and evil because they would experience shame, God puts rules in place to protect us from ourselves.

Genesis 2:25 (NIV)
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Can you imagine what you would feel like if you felt no shame? The fact that Adam and Eve were naked simply spoke to their innocence. There was nothing out of the ordinary in their nakedness. They literally had nothing to hide. God wanted them to spend their entire existences in that shame-free place. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve did what we usually do. They were drawn to the one thing that God told them not to do. While God knew that this would eventually produce shame, Adam and Eve were so caught up by the allure of the forbidden fruit that they couldn’t recognize the shame that waited for them.

Genesis 3:7 (NIV)
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

After they were convinced to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their “eyes were opened,” and they were ashamed. They started trying to cover themselves with fig leaves.

Don’t we try to do the same thing when we’re ashamed? We look for ways to cover it up. Unfortunately, in the same way that the leaves that they tried to use wouldn’t last, the things that we try to cover our shame with won’t last. They used leaves, we use alcohol. They used figs, we use drugs. While the methods may have changed, the fact remains that everyone wants something that will take away the sting of shame in the moment. The only way to truly do that is to accept God’s forgiveness.

Genesis 3:21 (NIV)
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Knowing exactly what had happened, God came into the garden to find Adam and Eve. They were hiding from Him. Isn’t it remarkable how shame caused Adam and Eve to hide from God, but the sin that they committed caused God to go look for them? That hasn’t changed.

When we mess up, we try to put some distance between ourselves and God. After all, if we don’t, we’re forced to face the fact that we have broken the rules that God set for us. While our shame pushes us to distance ourselves from God, our sin prompts God to look for us. In the same way that a Good Shepherd looks for the one sheep that has strayed from the flock, God looks for us when we are drawn away.

God did something for Adam and Eve that they couldn’t do for themselves. He made them coverings that would last. God killed animals, took their skins, and made Adam and Eve clothing. This was symbolic in addition to being practical.

In the same way that Christ’s blood has given us the ability to have a relationship with God, the blood that was shed from these animals allowed Adam and Eve to escape shame. While we try to cover our own shame, God provides the ultimate covering.

Shame always goes back to sinful decisions. The first example of shame can be traced back to the first sin. In our lives, the two are inseparable. When Satan uses shame to try to bring you down, remind him that your shame has been covered and you are forgiven.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to overcome the shame that the enemy is using against me. Forgive me of any sins that I have not repented for. Today, I take the tool of shame out of the hands of the enemy. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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