At some point, you might have been taught the difference between shame and guilt. If not, in simplistic terms, shame is who you are, guilt is what you did.
America is a guilt based culture
Primarily, if we are trying to persuade someone to do a thing (good or bad) our primary weapon is guilt. We even use guilt to try to wipe away shame. We say, “You don’t have to feel ashamed, because that’s not who you are — you are just guilty! And because that’s something you did, that’s not so bad, because that’s not who you are! And because that’s true, that means you can be better. Just don’t do that thing again” So just pull up your bootstraps, son!
These Texans are getting to me.
Furthermore, guilt only affects you and the peoples affected by the thing you did. But shame spreads further — it affects your family and community. Because you are shameful, those who associate with you are tinged with it as well. This is a concept shown over and over again in the Bible, because the Hebrew culture was actually a shame based one. Look how many times shame is mentioned!
But what this all means is that in America, we don’t deal with shame. Which, on some level is fine — because it’s not part of our cultural identity, we don’t feel or struggle with it as much. But, as much is not the same as not at all. There is still shame.
If we respond better to guilt, then why does this shame stuff matter?
Because at our core, we are shameful.
You see, as I’ve been learning about deep sin and how it affects a person (which includes lingering effects of shame even after forgiveness), I’ve seen how you can’t wipe shame away with saying you’re only guilty. Shame isn’t healed by forgiveness, it comes from restoration, and restoration can only come from someone with honor, someone in a higher position. (Sound like a certain Son of God?
If we take the gospel and only apply it to things we do and not also to who we are, then we will never fully understand the gospel.