Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…..2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

The Will Smith spectacle at this year’s Oscars ceremony resonated with me, especially when Mike shared a thoughtful commentary reflecting on the event. The writer described the damage Smith did to his carefully crafted image of an easy-going black man who is thoughtful and kind. I imagine he feels or will experience shame at some point. How he deals with it is what matters.

Providentially, I have been working my way through a book about shame. The timing couldn’t be more perfect because of an upsetting exchange I had with a good friend two weeks after starting the book.

The authors offer a view completely new to me. They write those feelings of shame can actually shine a light on the sin of idolatry underneath our reaction. Surprise made me reread this chapter.

The two authors point out that a more godly reaction than shame when realizing that our actions or words that might have cast us in a poor light would be sorrow coupled with a crying out to God for help. They explain that shame often has to do with one’s identity, the one we all craft or believe defines us.

Let’s say I blurt out something I’m thinking that hurts another person.  My immediate horrified shame stems from my belief that I’m a gal who comports herself kindly with people.  That’s the idol that I work to maintain, either consciously or subconsciously.  The feelings of shame occur when I realize that I did not live up to my own opinion of myself.

The authors write, “Idolatry is sneaky worship. It is worship of the self, but it doesn’t look that way at first.  It appears more like a poor self-image.  It looks like insecurity that necessitates always looking good, or never making mistakes, or determination to be successful. …” (p. 182, The Cry of the Soul)

A natural tendency might be to go numb, to refuse to deal with this painful feeling.  But instead of numbing oneself in shame, God wants us to feel sorrow over the hurt as well as sorrow for this sin.

Reading this book has given me a way to ‘see’ underneath my shame. I now realize that I have cultivated an interaction style with this friend of ‘staying on her good side’, of acting in ways that she will think well of me. I’ve wanted her to see me as a person who is caring and other focused.

I actually feel liberated, having been forced to acknowledge the true motivation of my actions. I don’t have to carry this burden of crafting an image.  Now I want simply to please God and trust him to draw us close.  And I’m praying that one day we both can dare be honest with each other. Then we can start to build our friendship based on authentic and clean hearts.