Public shaming is a real and present danger, especially in the age of the internet. We fear body shaming, failure shame, rejection shame, skeletons-in-our-closet shame, un-reciprocated love shame, past sin shame, public-speaking shame, etc. We are petrified of the possibility of public exposure. That moment when everyone discovers who we really are.
Shame avoidance is manifested in a bunch of ways. One way is that we seek to digitally enhance and sanitize our stories on social media so that everyone only sees the image of us that we want them to see. We may also avoid close relationships. If someone gets to know us too well, that dreaded terrorist called "shame"may sit down next to us while we are at coffee. In addition, attempts to avoid shame show up when we try to dominate or control relationships. We imagine that if we are the landlords of our friendships, we can evict anyone who is guilty of exposing us to shame. Maybe the primary attempt to avoid shame is striving to be a perfectionist. The mindset of the perfectionist is that they accumulate points by doing really good, nearly perfect, things. Those credits not only pile-up in one column, but in the perfectionist's mind, there is an equal subtraction from the shame-liabilities listed in the other. Besides being nearly completely ineffective in ultimately avoiding shame, these efforts are exhausting and, you guessed it, usually only produce more shame.
So, how can we avoid ultimate shaming? Here are three ways:
(1) Acknowledge the source of shame.
Shame comes as a result of sin. When sin entered this world, shame was holding its hand. In fact, there is a visible sign that appeared just following shame's grand appearance: clothes. Prior to sin, the man and woman were naked, and unashamed. That's not true of us today. If you were to go to the grocery store in the nude, you will no doubt be arrested and you will certainly feel a good dose of shame. The fountainhead of all of our shame is our sin. Fear of exposure and dread of embarrassment both come from our iniquitous, fallen hearts. Knowing the source of our shame will help us to not simply address the symptoms of shame, but to actually deal with the disease.
(2) Admit that you should feel ashamed. We should feel guilty; because we are. It's right for us to transparently admit that we have things from our past, our present and even to come, that are downright shameful. And it's very true that if those items were exposed to public view, we would be put to an open shame. If others found out what's really inside of us , and more about what we have done, thought and said, we would be viewed as really, bad people. But that's the point. We are really, bad people. To be Biblical, we are like an ornate casket: beautiful on the outside, decomposing, and vile-smelling on the inside. Get it. We should be ashamed.
(3) Trust in Jesus, the rock of offense, who will make you eternally immune to ultimate shame.
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." (Romans 9:33) Jesus, the sinless one, was put to an undeserving, open, humiliating, shame for us, who deserve to be put to an open, humiliating shame. As a result, those who trust in Him, are promised that they will never be put to shame. Drink that in. If we trust in Jesus, there will never be a day of sin-exposure resulting in shame. All of our shame-worthy thoughts, deeds and words were finally and totally removed when they were punished in the sinless body of the Lamb of God at the cross! It's the regular rinse-and-repeat of this glorious gospel that grows us in dealing with residual shame that seeks to rear its ugly head in our hearts. It's only because of the Stone of Stumbling that is laid in Zion that we will never, ever face ultimate shame. We are fully known, yet fully loved in Jesus. Praise be to God!