A great quote today: “We’re often afraid of looking at our shadow because we want to avoid the shame or embarrassment that comes along with admitting mistakes.”
Shame is a powerful motivator in our lives. We feel shame at failures or bad choices and we try to hide that shame from others and ourselves. We are rarely successful at this since the consequences of our choices are clearly seen. So, what good is shame? I think shame flows from our insecurity and pride. Amazing, isn’t it, that something as emotionally toxic as shame can result from both fear AND arrogance! But the greater lesson is to learn about ourselves in what we are ashamed of in our lives! What are you ashamed of?
Look at our lesson today in 2 Timothy 1:8-18:
TIMOTHY, my son, do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
St. Paul tells his spiritual son St. Timothy not to be ashamed of Christ or his spiritual father. Of course, what drives Paul’s words is that Paul is now in prison and the message of the risen Jesus is starting to cause problems for everyone who believes in the Lord. So Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel or the temporary problems that the message of Jesus may cause those who follow Him.
Of course shame can keep us silent about our faith. And shame can cause us to be embarrassed by those who boldly teach and live the faith as well. But that feeling of shame says something about us. Where does that feeling of shame or embarrassment come from? It usually flows from my own self image and how I fear others may see me if I am identified with “those people” of faith. Recently, I was attending my father’s funeral and I was dressed as I am, an Orthodox Christian priest. An old friend of my dad’s came up to me and said “So, you’ve become a Muslim.” For a second, I was embarrassed and started feeling the first twinges of shame. But then, I recalled that I am not representing myself, but the Lord’s Church. And the shame fled from my heart.
You see, dear one, shame is about you. God is not ashamed of you. Shame is about how you wish others to see you. But do you ever stop to examine if that impression you wish to display is actually good or authentic? If it isn’t then the real you is hidden behind the facade of your hoped for image. And no life can sustain that level of inauthenticity forever.
The key to avoiding the toxic effects of shame lies in the wisdom St. Paul tells Timothy. First, God’s grace is more powerful than all your mistakes. Always. Next, God’s Faithfulness is always more consistent than your actions. And finally, God’s Strength is always available to you even in your weakness.
Listen to what St. John Chrysostom says: “Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent.”
Today, is shame keeping you weak and distant from God and His Church? Are you ashamed of the Faith because of a poor image of what it means to be a person of faith? It’s time to put an end to the false power of shame keeping you from the spiritual medicine to truly heal your life. It’s time to rise up, go to Church, and be Orthodox on Purpose!
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