Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Destructive Power of Shame @TBBMediaGroup @ccef @newgrowthpress

Shame is something that is discussed in a therapeutic context frequently because of its constant presence in the lives of those who seek therapy. I've written about shame before, differentiating it from guilt as the latter saying, "I did bad" while shame says, "I am bad." Shame pervades people's identities, creating a sense of worthlessness and rejection.

In Shame Interrupted, Ed Welch, a psychologist, addresses the topic of shame head-on. The first few chapters paint a very real and in-depth picture of the potency of shame and its effects in daily life. Welch then proceeds to illustrate the history of shame throughout the Bible.

I was very impressed with Welch's psychological and theological treatment of such a sensitive, hidden, and pervasive topic. He brings to life the impact of shame and the power of Christ over shame. However, he doesn't argue for a simple, "Have faith, and you'll be healed approach." Rather, he actually stated, "The most promising response is that Jesus loves you, which is certainly true. But, believe it or not, that usually doesn't work either" (p. 61). Earlier on, he explains why recognizing Christ's love doesn't instantly heal shame: "When you receive such reproach from the community, you can easily believe that God himself joins these many voices, though he certainly does not" (p. 21).

Many Christians minimize the impact they have on people's perceptions of God, good and bad. However, our interactions with others can become the foundations of people's experiences of God. We literally need to be the hands and feet of Jesus, incarnating God's love to those around us.

While there were times when Welch said it was appropriate to feel shame (I'm not sure I agree--I think it's normal, but not really accurate), he also made it clear that these messages are not from God. God does not shame. Many Christians need to hear this message and remember that shame is not a motivator and does not lead people to God. Rather, it leads them to hiding (remember Adam and Eve?). Ironically, one of the most shame-enhancing pastors in the US, Mark Driscoll, endorsed this book.

Shame Interrupted reminded me of Bruce Narramore's No Condemnation, which addresses a similar concept, arguing that God never condemns people, but seeks restoration from human-made condemnation. However, Narramore's tome was more of an academic text. Welch's book stands up to strong academic scrutiny, but is more of a popular press book, making it far more accessible to the general population, which is really needed.

If you're interested in the topic of shame, this is a good introduction to understanding its power and pervasiveness. It doesn't provide strong solutions, but there are a variety of psychological texts that address the treatment of shame. I think one of the most powerful and important parts of this book is not minimizing the potency of shame and recognizing that its resolution is not simple.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. I agree with you that shame is never an appropriate feeling/response. there is never a time when it is accurate to believe "I am bad"

    and much of what people often call guilt, is actually shame. I can recognize when I've done something outside of love (i.e. "wrong") and then do what I'm able to make it right. To get stuck in negative feelings toward self serves no healthy or loving purpose.

  2. I think that was nicely said, Lynelle! By being made in the image of God and being children of God, we have infinite worth, which is the very opposite of shame. That doesn't mean we don't screw up and shouldn't learn from our mistakes. But those mistakes don't make us worthless.



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