Our culture has a knee-jerk reaction to shame. The hedonistic culture we live in hates shame because we don’t like to feel bad for our sin. Thus, we have people trying to “ban shame” and who refer to “shaming” someone as if it were…well, shameful.
We now have a culture of people who have largely lost their shame and refuse to admit to any guilt or feel any bad feelings for their wrongdoing. Rather than view wrong actions as something to be ashamed of, they view the feeling of shame as the evil to be avoided.
The truth is, shame is a good thing. It’s like physical pain in that it’s a warning sign that something is wrong. People without pain receptors often injure themselves and may even kill themselves without realizing they’re causing damage. Shame is similar. Feeling shame is a warning sign that we have done wrong and that we need forgiveness from God. It’s the normal, proper response to committing sin that God programmed into us. We’re supposed to feel shame when we sin so that we realize our need for a Savior. People with a blunted sense of shame, like people without pain receptors, may continue to damage themselves (spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and in their reputations) without realizing it and without seeking the forgiveness and healing they need.
Trying to remove shame by avoiding or denying the feeling only takes away the symptom, not the actual guilt. It doesn’t solve the real problem. It hides it.
Of course, people can feel false shame where they feel guilty for something that wasn’t wrong. And people can hypocritically point out the shame of others while ignoring their own guilt. Both of those are bad. But shame, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. It’s meant to turn us to God.
Many people in our culture would rather remove the bad feelings of shame than to address the underlying issue by admitting their guilt and their need for a Savior. A culture, like ours, that is focused on abolishing shame is a culture of people who are desperately trying to ignore their own sinfulness and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.