The Origin of Shame

By Carl Thomas

Chances are whether you’re a Christian or have no faith context whatsoever, you know about the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. 

It goes something like this… 

God created an amazing world we now know as planet earth. Adam and Eve were the first two people he made, and so he gave him this beautiful garden full of potential and teaming with life. 

All of this was theirs for the taking but with one little caveat… don’t eat the fruit of one specific tree. 

Of course, we all know what happened. 

They were tricked into eating the forbidden fruit by a cunning and clever serpent,  which resulted in complete disaster – something the church world often refers to as the fall of mankind. 

It’s a beautiful story. And yet it’s a tragic one as well.

A story of limitless potential that results in a terrible ending.

It’s a story that we closely associate with something we call “sin” or original sin. The story of man’s disobedience to God, which results in a world, once full of life, now a place where people hurt and kill each other for gain and power. 

But when I look at that story, not only do I see the cost of disobedience, I see the grand entrance of something called shame. 

As we know, before Adam and Eve ate the fruit, there was no such thing as shame in the garden. But after their misdeed, what does the story tell us? 

“At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”

Why did they feel the need to clothe themselves?

What made them feel the need to hide and get dressed?

I believe what we see is that when they saw each other for the first time completely bare, flaws and all, they didn’t like what they saw. 

They didn’t like what they saw of their partner.
And they didn’t like what they saw about themselves. 

So they felt immense shame and the need to cover up. 

And I think this is so significant for us, especially if we are seeking sexual integrity, because the thing that will keep us trapped in our unhealthy ways more than anything is shame.

It’s that fear of being known for whom we truly are.

It’s that disgust with our frailties and failures and the need to disguise them so no one else knows the real us. 

Shame isn’t what we were meant to live in. 

When God confronted Adam and Eve, He didn’t say good job for finding some clothes. No. He said, Why are you hiding? Who told you that you’re naked? 

Of course, He knew the answer to that question before He asked it; but it’s evident that His concern had nothing to do with their nudity or their poor fashion choices. 

He was concerned about the fact that something had shifted in their consciousness causing them to want to go get dressed and cover up.

Understand, I’ve worked in this area of ministry for over a decade now and I can tell you one thing with 100% certainty… 

Any man or woman who can’t get out from underneath the shadow of their own shame is going to continue to struggle. 

Shame is the enemy. 

It will suffocate you and keep you in the shadows where you will continue to hide and never actually find freedom. 

Listen, talking about the stuff that we do is not comfortable. And for sure, it seems weird. 

But it only feels that way because of shame. 

Telling someone about your sexual struggles, your desires, your questions, and insecurities may seem completely out of bounds, but in the end it should be completely natural. 

It’s what we were created to do… 

To be in communion.
To be known fully, without any hiding or masks. 

You need to understand that while exposing yourself to other people may create a great tension and challenge you more than anything you’ve ever done; it is no doubt one of the best things you can do for your soul and for your recovery. 

And this is why we are so focused on bringing these conversations to the surface, not content to just leave them alone in their own little dark corners.

Yea… 

It’s not easy, convenient, or popular.
It’s not going to get you a new book deal.
It’s not going to garnish you thousands of followers.

And if you are a pastor, it sure won’t get you butts in the seats or increase those offering numbers.

But it’s what we need to do regardless… because it’s the right thing to do.

Don’t let shame have a say in your life.

Don’t keep looking for those fig leaves to hide your “nakedness” rather than stepping out and being known for whom you actually are, the real you, warts and all.

 

 

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