Shaming has no healing or restorative purpose. Shaming invokes humiliation and embarrassment. It deceives the “shamer” into believing they are better than those being shamed. It comes cloaked in "needed criticism" or religiosity. Shaming takes all shapes and sizes…a leper ousted to the outside of the city, the woman branded with the scarlet A, a young intern caught up with a married politician, an athlete caught in a sexual addiction, or a mum whose child fell in a gorilla pit.
The main difference in how we shame is that we’ve traded pitchforks for the anonymity of the keyboard. We live in a world that is infiltrated with the mistakes of others blasted across the Internet in lightening speed. One day everyone shames a politician, the next day a dentist who shot a lion, the next is a college student who drank too much…and the list can go on.
Why is it we feel a need to interject ourselves into their world? Along with the natural consequences of poor choices, we want people to feel bad about their behaviors and bad about themselves. Poor choices say, "I did something bad," and shame says, "I am bad." But grace says, I love you at your worst. I love grace!
Grace is the opposite of shame.
If God has the grace to not define us by our worst day, why do we not extend that same grace to others? Why do we feel a need to use the backs of those broken to uplift ourselves? Why can't we be God's hands extended on earth? Wrapping them around the shoulders of the broken and loving them back into His arms.
Here are a few thoughts on what can we do different in a shaming culture:
We can be a true friend. When I read or hear about someone caught up in a media firestorm, I often wonder, “Who in their life can tell them no? Who can offer graceful rebuke?” What a challenge to be a better friend! We should be “iron that sharpens iron” friends (Proverbs 27:17).
We can find ways to empathise. You don't need to engage the argument, but look for the root of the situation. In the case of the attacks on the mum and the gorilla situation, we can say, “What parent hasn't had a child slip out from under them, fall off a chair, run away from us?” It is important to humanise a situation, to remember we all fall short in life.
We can give ourselves time to reflect. When we don't feel gracious with our words (oh you know!) and we know our thoughts are not good. We need to wait, just wait; sometimes it is an hour or a few days. We need this time to seek wisdom so that our words don't cause more damage.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Thankfully, God doesn't define our life by our worst day. No one else has that power to do that to you! This doesn’t mean we don’t have consequences for our behaviour, or that we shouldn’t take responsibility for our actions. But it does mean that once we recognise our mistakes and ask for forgiveness, we can live life defined by the One Who Truly Loves Us!
Karen has a master’s degree in counselling from Texas Christian University and a bachelor’s degree in History from University of Texas, Arlington. Karen and her husband have been in full time ministry since they said “I do”. They co-authored, Unexpected: What to Do When God Interrupts Your Plans