What Does the Bible Say About Shame?
JESUS, OUR SHAME BEARER
by David Alsobrook
"For your shame you shall have double..."
This study is about how Christ identified with us in our shame and bore it away so our
personal dignity could be restored. If you have ever been shamed, embarrassed, made to
feel worthless, or otherwise degraded then you need to read and study this special
WHAT IS SHAME?
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ╣ gives this definition: SHAME -- A
negative emotion caused by an awareness of wrongdoing, hurt ego, or guilt. In the
Bible, the feeling of shame is normally caused by public exposure of one's guilt (Genesis
2:25; 3:10). Shame may also be caused by a hurt reputation or embarrassment,
whether or not this feeling is due to sin (Psalm 25:2-3; Proverbs 19:26; Romans
Joseph, not wishing to shame Mary, desired to divorce her secretly (Matthew
1:19). Ultimately, God will expose the guilt of the ungodly, putting them to
shame (Daniel 12:2). God also puts to shame the wise of the world by
exposing their guilt before Him and by choosing to save the foolish of this world by a
"foolish" message (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Finally, our Lord
Jesus suffered the shame of the Cross because He was put on public display as the
recipient of God's wrath (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 12:2).
According to this Bible dictionary, shame is caused by one of two ways: either the
awareness or exposure of guilt, or a hurt reputation or embarrassment, whether or not this
feeling is due to sin. I would only add that shame is also caused by being wronged,
abused, or mistreated when one's personal rights are violated. This could occur a number
of ways, but the most vivid example I know of is when a child is verbally, physically or
sexually abused by an adult. The shame received by such abuse can be lifelong and far
HOW DOES SHAME AFFECT US?
Think back over your life to a time when you were shamed. Perhaps a parent disciplined
you publicly and other children teased you about it. Maybe you were falsely accused of
cheating in school and unjustly punished. Perhaps your reputation was marred in some way
and you had to live it down. Maybe you did something wrong but were improperly corrected
and have carried the embarrassment of your actions ever since. Here are some important
facts about shame which have been verified through many fields of study:
1. Shame always results in a loss of dignity.
Each individual is born with a sense of personhood which, if properly
nurtured, will instinctively help him or her make the right life choices. There are many
unbelievers who are basically moral people due to the fact they have chosen to keep their
dignity and were fortunate enough to avoid abuse during their formative years. Some,
however, were needlessly shamed in early life and grew up with a sense of loss about their
personhood. There are too many ways this can happen to list here, but a few are:
If a father really wanted a son but got a girl he can unknowingly damage her sense of
personhood by treating her like a boy and shaming her when she acts like a little girl.
There are many masculine women in our society whose personhood was not properly nurtured
during childhood. "Daddy's tomboy" for a girl is not anymore healthy than
"Mommy's little girl" for a boy!
Another way children are shamed is when they are told they are stupid, dumb, etc. When
adolescents go through a clumsy stage it is easy during those tender, vulnerable years, to
degrade their sense of personal value through family members calling them names, even in
times of humor. The gangly teen may laugh along with the rest of the family, but is often
Teenagers who engage in sexual sin enter adulthood with guilt and shame dogging their
Adopted children are sometimes stigmatized by our society. They grow up with a spirit
of rejection, feeling unwanted or illegitimate. Even as adults they often feel loss
because they do not know their biological parents and go to great lengths to find them.
When children are punished in anger or punished in the wrong way (slapping in the face,
etc.) their personal dignity is demolished by the authority figure in their lives which
can cause them to incorrectly surmise that God thinks they have little value, too. A
damaged person is often tempted to doubt God's ability to restore from guilt and shame.
God encourages all who were shamed in their childhood, however, that "Thou
shalt forget the shame of thy youth" (Isaiah 54:4).
Adults can be shamed, too, through divorce, failure, rape, bankruptcy or other traumas.
There are a host of ways a person can be shamed. Ask our Father to show you how you
have been degraded by your life experiences. However your dignity may have suffered, or
your personhood destroyed, you need to realize that part of the work of God in your life
is to restore you to wholeness in your concepts about yourself.
2. Shame produces emotional pain.
When a person is shamed his or her emotions are damaged. This causes a sense of loss,
hurt, and devaluation.
The macho mentality refuses to acknowledge the reality of emotional pain boasting,
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." God's
Word, however, teaches that words can injure the innermost part of a person (Proverbs
18:8). Unlike broken skin, though, a broken spirit does not automatically heal.
Emotional pain can be so real it can actually cause physical pain--heaviness in the
chest, upset of the digestive process, headaches, sleep disturbances, etc. Sometimes there
is a physical pain which is based solely in the emotions.
3. Shamed people medicate their pain.
We humans lick our emotional wounds by medicating our pain through a multitude
of means: sports, food, money, sex, television, personal achievements, immoral
relationships, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, rage and various other things. Some of them, in
themselves, are not wrong (take food for instance) but we abuse them by over indulgence in
an attempt to medicate our pain. In the thorough book, Love Hunger, the doctors of
the Minirth-Meier clinic spell out reasons why we overeat and show how, in most cases, a
person is actually attempting to fill a hole inside.
Many hurting people turn to the church in an effort to alleviate the pain they feel.
After being involved for awhile they often drop out, still hurting. Some people use
religion to evade their pain and deny their true feelings. Church is an escape to them
like theater is to someone else.
Pain calls for alleviation. If the alleviation itself is sinful then the individual
feels guilt which produces more shame-pain which, in turn, calls for more of the addictive
substance or practice and so the cycle goes. This is how a person, or a society, becomes
compulsive and addicted.
JESUS CHRIST, OUR SUBSTITUTE
I believe Jesus Christ is alive today and able to meet our deepest needs and that these
next years will witness a revolutionary healing in the deep cores of hurting people. They
will no longer need to medicate pain because their gut feelings will be healed and their
compulsions will be forgotten in the light of His grace! Jesus is not only our Guilt
Offering, but our Shame Bearer as we shall see this month and next.
HOW DID JESUS BEAR OUR SHAME?
All His sufferings on our behalf, in a general sense, were for our shame when the
Messiah was publicly beaten, mocked, whipped, and nailed to the Cross. In a specific
sense, however, Jesus bore our shame in two distinct ways: when He was spit upon., and
when He was exposed.
SHAME BY SPITTING
In the Old Testament spitting in the face was a gesture of contempt, a deliberate
insult. Job, during his trial, was such an object of disgrace that people spat upon him in
disgust (Job 30:10). He not only lost his children, his wealth, and his
health--he lost his honor, too, and the people expressed it by spitting on the poor fellow
as they walked by.
Miriam, after criticizing Moses for his choice of a wife, was smitten with leprosy.
Moses prayed for God to miraculously heal her rather than having her wait throughout a
seclusion period demanded for curing leprosy in the Levitical laws (Leviticus 13,
14). The Lord answered him, "If her father had but spit in her face,
should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and
after that let her be received in again" (Numbers 12:14).
In this scripture we see reference to the accepted custom of a father spitting on his
daughter if she had behaved foolishly. The daughter would be publicly disgraced, though
not disowned, by her father's public spittle. After a period of humiliation and isolation
she would be welcomed back to her family. If this seems harsh, and it was, just remember
that a son who behaved foolishly could be brought to the city's gate and stoned!
The key thought is that many ancient peoples, not only Hebrews, expressed shame by
THEY SHALL SPIT UPON HIM
Jesus Christ was spat upon during the course of His vicarious sufferings (Matthew
27:30; Mark 15:19). He foretold this would happen two different times: when He
was on earth (Mark 10:34; Luke 18:32) and centuries before He became
flesh. The Word spoke through Isaiah, "I gave My back to the smiters, and my
cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from SHAME AND SPITTING"
Notice how the phrase "shame and spitting" go together in Isaiah's prophecy. Jesus
actually bore our shame when He was spit upon so we could be emotionally healed of shame
and disgrace! Christ was mocked and devalued, jeered and mistreated on our behalf.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN DESPISED?
Think back over the course of your life. Can you remember times when your sense of
value was cheapened by the behavior of others? If they were your authority figures did you
accept the unkind remarks they made about you as true of yourself? Have you ever said
about yourself the same type of things others said long ago? If you answer yes to any of
these questions then you may be living in a very real sense of shame.
Jesus Christ made those He contacted feel better about themselves. Even an adulteress
walked away with her sense of worth restored (John 8). Isaiah predicted
that the Messiah would be "...despised and rejected of men" as
Spurgeon commented "so the reader need not bear it" (Isaiah 53:3).
Christ bore the emotional ills of His people so we would not have to medicate our pain.
Instead we can believe that He "...carried our sorrows" for us (Isaiah
Go to Him now and ask Him to minister this vital provision in your life.
╣Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
David Alsobrook is an Evangelist and resides in
Brentwood, Tennessee with his wife. David has traveled extensively carrying the full
gospel message to many. David also is a prolific writer and his books and teachings
have gone all over the world. He can be reached at the addresses below:
SURE WORD MINISTRIES:
This March 1992 article was copied with permission from:
SURE WORD MINISTRIES
PO Box 2305
Brentwood, TN 37024.