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June 4, 2018, 9:49 AM

June 2018 Letter from our Pastor


The Bible describes shame as the core consequence of the fall. Adam and Eve were not satisfied with their own being. They wanted to be more than they were, to be more than human.  Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were naked before God and one another and were unashamed. In other words they felt worthy of respect and beheld the other as being worthy of respect.  But tempted by the desire to be like God,  they disobeyed God’s word,  rejected communion with God, and rejected the great worth given to him by God.  The penalty for the sin of wanting to be like God was debilitating shame, a deep feeling of unworthiness. They became ashamed and hid from God before they attacked each other and were cast from the garden of God’s presence.  

We all like Adam and Eve fall short of expectations at times and are disappointed in ourselves.  In these moments we feel guilt, shame, unworthiness.  These feelings are healthy if they last only a moment and they motivate us to learn.   But, instead of the momentary feeling shame, a person can come to believe that his whole self is fundamentally flawed and defective. A person says, “I am a mistake— everything I do is flawed and defective.” This type of shame psychologist John Bradshaw calls toxic shame.  Toxic shame could also be called toxic unworthiness. In the bible there are different words to describe shame.  Healthy shame turns us from error and sin back to the love and truth of God but toxic shame that makes us feel condemned and hopeless as they did in the garden. Healthy shame is of God but toxic shame is of Satan  

Life lessons begin at birth. In a healthy family life lessons are taught with love and acceptance.  The harmony of a healthy family is at least somewhat similar to the garden when they were naked and felt no shame.  The difficulties of life do not drive a healthy family apart. Instead they deal with the difficulties of life together without shame.

In an unhealthy family, however toxic shame is constant. The problems of life cause resentment that drives the members apart.  Even newborns receive the message “I  am a mistake” if caregivers withhold or are unable to provide effective nurture.  Toxic shame therefore begins to form in early life and becomes a greater and greater force in life.

Toxic Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of being fundamentally flawed, defective, unworthy, and “deficient in some vital way as a human being.”  Toxic shame drives people apart, causing loneliness.  Shamed and lonely people must find a way to dull the pain. 

Even young children learn it is possible to work to earn approval and thereby fight the toxic shame they feel. Young and old think, if I get over this next hill though work, then I’ll feel better about myself and how things are going to step back and relax. But for now I can’t stop. When motivated by toxic shame a person’s  value ultimately fuses with his own act or performance. He becomes a “human doing” without any real sense of his true God given value.. Such a person feels emptiness, hopelessness and futility of toxic shame.

Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in isolated, guarded, rigid, secretive and defensive ways in order to protect their vulnerable shame filled hearts.  Once they find a way to stop the pain of toxic shame they become addicted. Toxically shamed people use work, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, sex, and more to deal with shame, but all earthly ways lead to death.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kauffman says,

“The affect of (toxic) shame is important.  No other affect is more disturbing to the self. In the context of normal development shame is the source of low self esteem, diminished self image, poor self concept and deficient body image. Shame itself seeds doubt and disrupts both security and confidence. It can become an impediment to the experience of belonging and shared intimacy. Shame always alerts us to any affront to human dignity. It is the experiential ground from which the confined and identity inevitably derive. In the context of pathological development, shame is the emergence of alienation, loneliness, inferiority and perfectionism. It plays the central role many psychological disorders as well, including depression, paranoia, addiction and borderline conditions. Sexual disorders are largely disorders of shame.”

Healthy shame turns us to the God of love and truth.  Healthy shame brings eternal life. Toxic shame ends in condemnation and death. The good news is that we can be saved from toxic shame.   The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the true and eternal antidote to toxic shame.

Recovery from toxic shame begins with preaching the gospel to your toxic shame.  The gospel transforms toxic shame into healthy shame.  God’s love is the only power that can conquer the shame of unworthiness and return us to the unashamed conditions of the garden. The Gospel quenches shame and returns you more and more into secure attachment to God and others. Secure attachments with God and others allow you to develop a renewed sense of worth.  Love of God and the security He provides allow your true self to come out of hiding. Feeling loved , you will in turn want to love others. Receiving the gift of God’s love seems to be the hardest task for all for humankind. God’s love is the only foundation for happiness.  When you receive God’s love you are able to love yourself and others.

A person who is secure in God’s love is capable of connecting with another in an committed, intimate relationship. Giving and receiving of gospel based, genuine love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness. As trust grows, spiritual and emotional bonds are formed. These bonds become an interpersonal bridge between members of the family or group(church). The bridge is the foundation for mutual growth and understanding. The interpersonal bridge is strengthened by certain experiences we have come to accept and depend on. 

People become significant in the sense that love, respect and care for others really matters. They allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept the love others. Preaching the gospel to our shame and loving others will breath new life into individuals first, then families, the church and the community just like it did at the first Pentecost.

Christian life and ministry is a battle against shame/unworthiness. In order to be saved and live fruitful lives people must continuously receive the love of God that is the antidote to their shame.

I pray that this summer, we will all preach the Gospel to our shame and learn the power of God’s love in our lives more and more.  You are beloved and you are not a mistake!!

God bless your summer!!

In Christ’s love, Jon

Sources

Bradshaw, John. Healing the Shame that Binds You . Health Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World (p. 70). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


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