Monday, November 7, 2011

Shame, Guilt, Grace, and Motivation

“Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame.”
(Isaiah 28:16, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6, Joel 2:26-27, Isaiah 45:17, 54:4)

Shame means disgrace, dishonor, disfavor. It is being out of favor; a loss of favor. Shame is literally the opposite of grace.

Shame carries the idea of "turning in upon oneself" thus guilt/shame is like a pity party where you devalue yourself or think that God devalues you based on your behavior/actions. From my experience that type of guilt does not result in positive motivation or actions. That guilt does not produce hope or peace. It makes you not want to go to God. That shame barrier is what Christ removed on the cross.

The people of the Old Testament always lived with shame.
"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin would have disappeared." (Hebrews 10:1-2)

People in Christ are free from having that shame. "Behold, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:7). Now that Jesus has been the perfect sacrifice He provides for us "perfect cleansing & purification once for all time." He makes it so our feelings of guilt and our consciousness of sin are no longer absolutes. We are free from them.

Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never lose grace, they will never lose favor with God. A Christian cannot be out of favor with God. When you feel shame, when you feel guilt, you feel like you have lost favor with God but that is absolutely not the case! Once you are saved God will never put you to shame.

There is also a practical reality here. Everyone who trusts Jesus, with a personal present tense trust, will never feel shame. As long as you are trusting Him and His love you will not feel shame. Why? Because you are living in the reality of God's love and grace. From my experience this is completely true. If I am not trusting God I am susceptible to feeling guilt and shame by believing in the lie that I have lost favor with God. While I am trusting that God only gives me grace (loving kindness) and never gives me disgrace (shame) I will never feel shame.

Are You Motivated by Guilt?
Shame is what caused Adam and Eve to hide from God in Genesis 3:8. Before they ate from the tree in Genesis 2:25 it says that they were not ashamed. In Genesis 3:10 Adam says they hid from God because they were afraid of God. Shame/guilt causes you to hide from God. If you have "bad" feelings that do not cause you to hide from God or devalue yourself I would not call those feelings guilt. Shame and guilt lowers a person in their own estimation, weakens them, and causes them to yield to sin more.

If I don't want to feel bad (guilt) I am going to try to do better so I won't feel bad (guilt) anymore. Being motivated by that idea of guilt is not love or compassion based, it is for the selfish removal of my negative emotion. It isn't about benefiting the other person (love). It is about me feeling better about myself. If I do something because I'm going to feel guilty if I don't then it is still about me, its not about others.

When the result of your emotions, even if they feel negative, is care for and the benefit of someone else I would say you are motivated by love and compassion and not by guilt.


  1. great article but i think a little differently. Jesus has taken and bore our shame, but we still live in a fallen and sinful world. The reality of heaven is that there is no shame, but the reality of earth is that shame is still here though its oppressive power has been broken and destroyed. If and when we feel shame we need to return to him.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I wasn't saying shame is non-existent. I'm saying God is never the source of shame. God longs to cure our shame.

      Strangely you talk about us "returning" to God, as if we could leave Him or He could leave us.