Momma said not to pick up the baby bird she’d rescued from the cat. She had tucked it into a box in its little nest. But curiosity got the better of my five-year-old mind, and I snuck in to hold the tiny, featherless creature. Suddenly, the unthinkable. I dropped it. Carefully picking it up and replacing it in its nest, I prayed for a miracle, only to see momma a few hours later holding a dead baby bird.
I never confessed.
Fraternal twins guilt and shame tend to hang out together, with slightly different influences. Guilt pertains to feelings of remorse for things we do; shame is regretting who we are. Guilt says, “I did badly.” Shame says, “I AM bad.” Research shows that people with guilt responses to wrongdoing are healthier and less narcissistic than people with shame reactions. They also tend to repeat the behavior less. Think about it: If you ARE bad, how can you do anything BUT bad?
Those of us who want to take reasonable moral responsibility, but not become overwhelmed, say, “Guilt is okay, but shame is bad.” Things get tricky here. Some conscientious types, after disallowing shame, will still feel it. Then they become ashamed about being ashamed! Emotions are notoriously uncooperative. Willing them away doesn’t work well.
Here’s how to break that cycle: Think process, not product. In other words, don’t concern yourself with whether or not you feel or have shame. Concern yourself with what to do with it. Shame will come. We broken, sinful human beings will at times feel ashamed of our condition. What process to follow when feeling, “I am bad”? Take those feelings of shame to Jesus and let Him carry them. They weigh but a feather compared to the load He bore to the Cross. He will gladly lift them from you, giving you a new sense of self anchored in Him.
Recall the feelings of shame you’ve carried. Imagine them as a heavy burden upon your back. See yourself trudging along, becoming more and more exhausted. Imagine yourself nearly falling.
Then imagine Jesus standing before you with His arms open wide. Imagine His kind eyes. Imagine Him lifting the heavy burden from you. Then see Him placing a light burden upon you, His yoke of service. You breathe a sigh of relief.
Fix in your mind three people you can serve today. How can you, though some small act, lift the burden off weary shoulders?
Dear Rest-Giver, thank you for lifting the heavy burden of shame from our shoulders. Lead us to be burden-lifters through acts of service woven into our everyday lives. When we start bearing our own shame, remind us where we can find rest. We pray in the name of Jesus, amen.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30