The idea of “guilt vs. shame” has a long history in 20th-century scholarship (see previous post). But how did the cultural model of guilt-shame-fear develop? Here is a super short history of the cultural trichotomony.  In 1954, Christian anthropologist and …

The Model of Guilt-Shame-Fear—A Short History Read more »

Where do these categories of “guilt-shame” or “shame-honor” come from? Like all ideas, the notion of “shame” has developed over time. This post summarizes the main currents of shame research in the 20th century. The Beginning: Ruth Benedict The binary …

The Meaning of ‘Shame’—A Short History Read more »

There are many models that explain how global cultures differ. They all simplify reality in different ways. This post shows how the guilt-shame-fear paradigm compares to other well-known cultural models. 1. Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions An organizational anthropologist named Geert Hoftstede …

Guilt-Shame-Fear & Other Cultural Models Read more »

People often voice the concern that reducing cultures down to “guilt,” “shame,” or “fear” is oversimplifying reality—“Aren’t cultures a combination of these factors?” Most certainly. Cultures are too complex to be isolated into just three boxes. These are not three …

3 In 1: Integrating Guilt, Shame, and Fear Read more »

Western theologians and missionaries often assume that “guilt-based” morality is ethically superior. This, I believe, is a dangerous assumption. A guilt-based approach to ethics has several shortcomings that limit its moral effectiveness, particularly in collectivistic contexts. These limitations do not …

4 Problems with Guilt-Based Morality Read more »

All Bible translations face a problem—the cultural gap between the Bible and contemporary readers. English words evoke Western assumptions and values that are unlike those of biblical writers. The word “grace” (Greek: charis) is a good example of this problem of …

The Problem of “Grace” in English Bibles Read more »

The post is adapted from chapter #3 of  The Bridge to Racial Unity: Discussion Guide 2.0 from Be the Bridge ministries. A personal awareness of racism and racial injustice can generate uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt. In America’s individualistic …

Shame and Guilt in Racial Reconciliation Read more »

The latest issue of the magazine Modern Reformation includes my article “Talking About Faith in Non-Western Contexts.” This article explains the biblical meaning of “faith” in terms of patron-client relationships and recent New Testament scholarship. The opening paragraphs are included below, and …

The Meaning of “Faith” Read more »

As the global Church expands, there is a growing need for money to fund ministry. The Church in Asia, Africa, and Latin America has a vision for global missions, and this vision requires financial resources. Traditional fund-raising models are often …

Raising Support in Honor-Shame Cultures: 5 Tips Read more »

Anyone who reads the Bible today faces an unavoidable fact—Scripture was originally written in and for a culture different than our own culture. This makes the Bible difficult to understand. Consider the meaning of these words: He whistled at her, …

The Problem with Bible Translations: Your Culture Read more »

In 2001 I taught American literature at a university in Central Asia. It was my first year living overseas, and the experience of teaching cross-culturally caused many instances of culture shock. I enjoyed the friendships with students, but I resented …

Teaching in Honor-Shame Cultures: 5 Must Knows Read more »

This article, co-authored with Jackson Wu, was originally posted at Christianity Today on Ed Stetzer’s blog (Feb 16). Shame is getting exposed, finally. Commentators now observe how Western culture, especially the millennial generation, is becoming more shame-prone. Consequently, more Westerners are …

Exposing the Truth about Honor and Shame: The 4 Dimensions Christians Must Understand Read more »

Last year Christian publishers released 4 books titled “Unashamed.” These are Christian efforts to speak to a popular topic in Western culture—the longing to be free of shame and to “be myself.”  While inspiring and encouraging, these books assume the distorted, Western …

Super Duper “Unashamed” Read more »