Does God Really Remove our Shame?

The Bible says that God removes our shame. “I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (Zeph 3:19). Both Paul and Peter quote Isaiah 28:16: “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6). Christ replaces our shame with honor.

But here is the problem—this does not seem not true. My shame is not gone; I experience it every day!

I know that I have been adopted as a child of God, gifted with the Holy Spirit, seated with Christ, and endowed with God’s own glory. And, yet, the voices of inadequacy or deficiency continue to echo throughout my soul. As Job says, “But even when I am innocent, I cannot lift up my head. I am so ashamed because of all the troubles I have” (10:15).

So, then, what does it mean to say, “God removes my shame?” If Jesus takes my shame, why do I still have shame? For me, personally, this issue is exaggerated by the fact that I write and teach on the very topic. I feel shame for feeling shame because I have written so much about shame, yet still affected by shame. If my head knows so much about shame, why do I, as a believer in Jesus, continue to live under the shadow of shame? I have been wrestling with this topic, both biblically and personally, for the last year. And I suspect that I am not the only Christian who experiences shame.

Most Christian authors offer two basic answers to our problem of shame: “Just don’t worry about the opinions of others!” and “Shame can be good for moral development!” Though I agree with these points, they have become pat answers that do not resolve the issue. Christians need a fuller, more nuanced understanding of shame.

So I will address this issue in my plenary presentation at the Honor-Shame Conference, titled “Saving Ourselves from Shame.” I aim to develop a biblical view of shame for the Christian life, sharing theological reflections and practical strategies for experiencing God’s salvation as a believer.

Join us at the Honor-Shame Conference (June 2020, Wheaton College) to learn and grow together.


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16 Comments on “Does God Really Remove our Shame?

  1. Our theological Shame is removed at Rebirth and Adoption. Theologically, Shame is a Loss of Identity and Inheritance. Psychologically Shame is the remnant of our past loss that may intrude into our feelings and negative thought patterns.
    Far too often, the Shame associated with Fallen Nature is confused with psychological shame. I have taught this distinction for 50 years but many who write about Shame still mesh the two worlds. Just as True Moral Guilt is removed at forgiveness we often suffer from False Guilt Feelings.
    Our culture and theologians intentionally “shame” us and “guilt” us as a means of motivation. It is wrong to do it and leaves many Christians deeply wounded. In many places, Shame is generational and intentional as a feeling and it is not recognized as a theological Fact!
    As a retired Clinical Counselor I teach that we must distinguish between the two. Most of the articles I read about Shame conflate the two. I have developed ways to treat Shamed Clients. I do not see any strategy among theologians to do that.

    • I love this! Do you have some studies or links of the different types of shame (theological and psychological) I’d love to dig into this!

  2. Mr. Georges,

    Have you ever come across the books Shame Interrupted and Addictions: a Banquet in the Grave, both by Edward T. Welch?

    I still struggle with shame, though a lot less. And when shame does come up, it doesn’t burn as badly as it used to.

    I hope to be able to hear your perspective and how you have applied the Gospel to such a painful subject.

  3. I spent 33 years as a missionary to Japan, an honor/shame culture. So I am well familiar with the issues, and was glad when I found your website and started getting the emails. However, this post repels me. You say openly that what the Bible said about shame in Zephaniah, Isaiah, Paul, and Peter are wrong. In other words, to you God’s Word is wrong.

    Because of this, I am going to ask that my name be taken off your mailing list.

    I trust things will go well for you at Wheaton College, where my parents went in the 1940s. I’ll be at a Bible translation conference, and expect great blessing.

    • Mr Himes, I do not think the author of this article is saying that the Bible is wrong. I believe he is comparing theological vs experiential. For example, through Christ we stand before the Father sinless but our day to day experience does not reflect that fact. I do wish the author clarified his position better. Thank you

    • I think you have misread my statement. I’m not saying the Bible is wrong, but that my experience does not align with the promises of Scripture as it relates to the removal of shame. There is a gap between my theology and experience, which I suspect we all face.

      • Shame is attached to our old nature. Our new nature in Christ is liberated from shame. Our true nature which is spiritual doesn’t experience shame. Only the old nature exudes shame when we allow it to submerge or rule over the new nature. It is an intrusive trespass of the old life thought process into our new experience.
        We must never allow the old life to influence our new experience.

  4. Dear HonorShame Team, I am an older Christian and not an expert in anything cultural. I can only relate that I am a diligent reader of God’s Word. You suggested in the blog post that “Christians need a fuller, more nuanced understanding of shame.” I would humbly agree, but I would suggest that this should also include a fuller understanding of the ways that satan can afflict us through the evil spirit of shame. Unfortunately our modern rationalistic perspective often causes us to overlook what the Bible teaches about the reality of the demonic. I greatly appreciate the insights of The 3D Gospel by J. Georges and Honor & Shame by R. Muller, but I would suggest that much more needs to be understood about the demonic elements of shame in all 3 culture types – not just in Fear-Power cultures. Additionally the development of a model that differentiates between the vertical (God/Man) and horizontal (Man/Man) dimensions of “shame” might be helpful to our understanding as well.

  5. I’m looking forward to your session, Jayson. I sense that Westerners perceive shame as a subjective feeling, a voice in our heads that we should silence. In honor-shame cultures shame tends to be more of an objective status—I may be shameful because of who my parents are, or because I’m deformed, or because of the social class I was born into. Sometimes I can bring shame on myself by my actions, and while there are steps I may take to address guilt, there is nothing I can do to remove my own shame. It requires someone of a highly honorable status who will deign to be seen with me, visit my home, or publicly say something nice about me.

    I relate biblical shame to our status as sinners by nature, born into the shameful family of Adam. In that sense salvation from shame begins when Jesus comes into the world. He stoops to be seen in our neighborhood. Not only that, He invites us to His house! “He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.” This is the removal of shame! So the Gospel does address shame as a status; shame as a feeling is probably one of those things we will do battle with and long to be freed from until we see Him face to face.

    • I’m digging around to understand why I feel shame, if he promised to take it away. I’m actually a little angry about this because I’ve suffered with shame for quite some time. It’s irrational and can make me cranky.

      What you said about Christ taking away our shame, yes he has given us a righteousness so we are covered in his righteousness and our shame is taken away our nakedness is hidden. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel shame, but when you talk about shame as a status, that makes all the difference.

  6. I completely identify with this struggle of feeling shame. While I believe God has taken away my shame, I face every day the feelings of “not being enough”.
    Is there any other material you can offer to help me with this issue. Thank you and blessings,

    • Hi Catalina,
      For some reason, I just got a notification in my in-box about this feed, so I revisited it and I saw your question (from March of 2020)!! There is an excellent book on the subject of Shame that just came out in 2021. It clearly explains the difference between guilt and shame and the proper place of each. I found it extremely helpful. It’s called “For Shame” by Gregg Ten Elshof.

  7. I enjoyed reading the comments as much as your article. I think you’ve found a good topic thread to take up again. Ruth’s post is particularly insightful, and the earlier gentleman’s post, Dr. Sweeten’s, about loss of identity.
    Thanks to such teachers of the word discipling me, I can now put into words the triumph of God’s love over my shame: God’s power to transform is not a social justice that cared more to keep itself politically relevant or ceremonially clean like Pontius Pilate. God’s justice is hand in hand with his mercy, entering into the dirty inescapable shame of the beloved to personally take hold of and lift him/her out, into new identity that is His own. For the child of light – disrobed of shame, cleansed, clothed in righteousness and called Not Forsaken – whom the grace of God delivers from evil and trains in godliness, there are not two shames; there is only the old shame’s echo if/when the child has neglected to pay attention to the new robe of Christ’s righteousness. But the Advocate stands ready to forgive. Then any remaining feeling of shame is an affront (the adversary would love to leverage) to the reality of the pure love, clear conscience, and sincere faith the Holy Spirit is after. Watchman Nee summed up a proper response to shame: “That’s why I need Jesus.”

  8. Exactly! What was the point of Jesus’ death on the cross if it wasn’t to completely obliterate the entity of sin (and the resulting shame, guilt, condemnation and death) within us?! He certainly didn’t die for His own sin, because He was completely sinless! He died to it all, and we died with Him (Romans 6) to all of it, and we’ve been raised to new life as beloved children of God! This is the reason The Gospel is called THE GOOD NEWS!

    • Good news indeed, Daniel! I think we will all be stunned into silence in heaven when we realize that God’s grace is an ocean and we have all roped off a small swimming area along the shore. There’s so much to explore and understand about all that He accomplished on our behalf. Jesus lends us his honor by identifying with us. Through the indignities he suffered while on earth, He demonstrated that there is no one so low that he is not able to remove their shame and give them honor by association. When the “untouchables” were healed by him, it demonstrated that rather than being shamed or contaminated by them, they were honored or made pure by him! Not even death–the ultimate indignity–had power over him.

      While guilt is a personal issue that is dealt with by confession and forgiveness, shame is by nature a community issue. Even private feelings of shame have to do with how we think we are or will be perceived by our people if they really knew us. The community issue of shame requires a community answer. That’s where I think we need a fuller understanding of the place of the church in removing shame.

  9. Shaming unfortunately is more often than not used as a control tactic among many “Christians” who call themselves Christians when in reality are projecting their own insecurities and perceived moral superiority by hyper-fixating and over criticizing others behaviors. A true Christian does not revert to shaming oneself or others when sin occurs rather they understand they and others are human, sin is a part of the human condition, we will make mistakes and yes more often than not “sin” is merely just mistakes, or even, forced upon us– we need to be more understanding and less harmful to others with how we force shame on others. I would argue it is far more detrimental than helpful. Most of the time people are already critical of themselves, and seeing others be critical and humiliate / embarrass can worsen the inner self critic to even more severe levels, leading to negative self esteem, external validation seeking, self harm, self soothing via substance abuse.
    At the end of the day shame / punishment is hardly a way to encourage positive behavior.

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