Defusing the Shame-Bomb

Erik Cooper —  October 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

I was thumbing through my Facebook feed over lunch last week when a compelling photo caused me to put on the brakes. It was a young African boy, no more than 4 or 5 years old, in tattered clothes on his knees, taking a drink from a filthy mud puddle.


I’ve had the honor of traveling to a few poverty-stricken places of our globe, and you never get used to seeing things like this. So I clicked the image to reveal the full picture. That’s when the caption hidden below the photo hand-delivered a whole new emotion:

And you’re upset because you can’t get the new iPhone 5s.

Touché guilt monger. Touché.


In 3 seconds, my internal compass spun from compassion to anger. A valid point? Maybe. But somewhere, like a mother threatening to send her 6 year old’s brussel sprouts to starving children in China, the creator of this condemnation jihad wrongly assumed that guilt and shame are good agents of change.

Look, we “first-worlders” need to be reminded of our blessings. Challenged. Even kicked in the butt every once in awhile. Perspective is a really healthy thing. But packing a moral point into a guilt grenade doesn’t motivate anything but our self-righteousness.

Shaming people doesn’t change them (at least not in a sustainable way). Our instinctual response to guilt is to cover up, to try and make ourselves look better, to save face, to attempt to earn our way back into the shamer’s good graces.

“I’m a good person! Really, I am! See! Look at me. Look at me!”

(Guilt is obsessed with me).

Real transformation is rooted in what Jesus has done.

“There’s no good in me! But Jesus loves me anyway! Look at Him! Look at what He did for me!”

Our response to an authentic encounter with grace is to, well, change. And then we instinctively begin to pour out of this newfound abundance. We give, because we now we have everything we could ever need. What if we got good at reminding each other of that?

(Grace defuses the shame-bomb).

Perhaps the better caption for that heart-wrenching picture might’ve been:

Because Jesus has already given me everything, I’m free to give my everything.

I don’t know. Just a thought. Or we could just continue hurling guilt-grenades.

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