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Posts Tagged ‘dealing with shame’

Jo 23It was only a small difference of opinion—at first. I was sure I had mentioned some simple thing I had done, but it soon became obvious the other person present had not heard all I had said. Or perhaps it was that I thought I had added my initial explanatory sentence, but it had remained just that in my head—a thought and no more. Who knows? I was tired and cross, however—and I did not want to entertain that quite reasonable possibility. So, casting caution to the wind, I stuck to my guns and maintained I had in fact explained everything. I argued my case with vehemence. With great fervour, I maintained I was right. In my anger and frustration at being accused unjustly, I might even have raised my voice significantly! And all in order to defend myself over something that did not matter too much in the bigger scheme of things.

Later that day, shame at my response kicked in, but my anger at being wrongfully accused still hung on too. Why did I have to apologise when I knew I had been right? Better just to let it all die down—it would probably be forgotten by tomorrow anyway. Yet something nagged at my conscience. And some verses that I knew from past experience make complete sense kept coming to mind:

 … Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

So at last I apologised—and my apology was accepted with grace. We talked a little more about how much better it is to let differences of opinion over trivial issues go rather than try to justify ourselves, then left it at that.

But I soon discovered God wasn’t finished with me. Still feeling a little disgruntled, I sat down at my desk and picked up a book of devotionals someone had given me a few days earlier. I turned to the relevant page for the day—and almost laughed out loud, despite my negative feelings. Right at the top, standing out in bold, red letters, was James 1:19-20:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

I don’t know about you, but these words have always been a strong challenge to me. Somehow, that order of ‘quick … slow … slow’ can so easily be reversed—often, I am much more likely to be slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry, as I rush to defend myself and my actions! In fact, I may not even hear exactly what the other person is trying to tell me before I crank up the volume and start talking—sometimes over the top of them.

Hopefully, I am slowly learning not to do this, to hold back more, take a deep breath and give the other person a chance to say what is troubling them. And hopefully one day, I will improve, as I model myself more closely on how God has treated me and still does on a daily basis:

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 88:15

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Jo 23I’m sure I’ve managed to embarrass quite a few people in my life. I can recall several occasions when my parents ended up rather red-faced over something I had done. And I’m sure I can remember one or two times when my own children let me know how much I had embarrassed them in one way or another!

I’m also good at embarrassing myself. Now I can laugh more readily at some things I do and have done. But there was a time when I was much more sensitive and much more prone to feel ashamed long after I had goofed in some obvious way.

And I can certainly remember feeling ashamed when others have pulled me up about something I have said or done. As a young child, I hated to be disciplined in any way by my parents. It was altogether too embarrassing. When this happened, I would curl up in a ball, with my thumb in my mouth.

‘I’m not a naughty girl! I would wail as I sobbed my heart out.

I understand that sense of shame. It can become all-pervading and was something I had to deal with later in my life, with God’s help. But recently, I was given an entirely different insight into this whole experience of shame—from God’s own perspective.

At the time, I was reading through Hebrews 11 where the writer describes the exploits of brave and godly people in the past and how they were commended for their faith. There I was, enjoying being reminded of these stories when I came across a verse that shocked me:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

If God was not ashamed to be called the God of these heroes of the faith, I reasoned, then that must mean God could well have been ashamed of others who did not persevere. So could that happen now? Could that apply even to me? What a horrifying thought—imagine embarrassing God! Surely I could never do that.

But … what about the times I put other things before God in my life? What about when I dishonour God by not mentioning my faith? What about those occasions when I do not trust God will provide for me and give in to my doubts and fears? What about the way I so often live like an orphan instead of a much-loved child of the King? Could these things ever cause God to feel ashamed of me?

How wonderful it is that God is so forgiving of wayward, forgetful children like me and so gracious towards us all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf! How amazing it is that God continues to love me, at the same time as possibly feeling ashamed of my behaviour! How thankful I am that God is able to lift any guilt and shame off me and replace it with perfect love and acceptance—forever! As Isaiah 43:25 tells us:

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I don’t want to continue practising the fine art of shaming God—do you?

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