Archives For shame

The Impostor of Guilt

Erik Cooper —  January 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Sometimes following Jesus is like having the stomach flu. That internal rumbling in your digestive track. Uncomfortable. Disturbing. I thought Jesus lived in my heart, how did he find His way to my small intestine?

I’ve definitely been there. The summer of 2000, I was avoiding full time ministry like Jay Cutler and the second half of the NFC Championship game. And it was eating me for lunch. We Christians call it conviction. That gnawing feeling inside your gut that is spelling out in no uncertain terms:

God is compelling me to do something I don’t really want to do. Insert vomit here.

But honestly, I’ve learned to welcome this type of nausea.  When we have the courage to respond and obey, life becomes beautiful. The Kingdom of God comes alive in us and around us. We begin to live in the reality of doing things God’s way. Never painless. Never without a cost. But always full of life. Real life.

But I’ve also experienced an impostor.

Rather than wrestling with internal, God-initiated challenges, I far too often find myself embracing the sinister villain of guilt. I wear its heavy strands around my neck like a concrete necklace even Mr. T. would see as a bad fashion statement.

I compare myself to others.

She’s taking a missions trip to Kenya.

He volunteers at the homeless shelter.

They’re adopting a child from Eastern Europe.

He quit his job to start a non-profit.

And rather than allowing the challenge of those we admire to inspire our own obedience to the Father, we become overwhelmed by shameful comparisons. Why am I not doing what “that guy” is doing? Maybe some day I’ll have “that kind” of faith. When will I man up to “that kind” of courage?” When will God be “that proud” of me?

Let me both let you off and put you back on the hook, ok?

Jesus said:

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus isn’t asking you to be somebody you’re not.  He isn’t asking you to mimic someone else’s obedience. He’s not placing anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. You can’t sustain that.

But He is calling you to obey. To become who He created you to be. And He never said it wouldn’t be painful. He never said it wouldn’t be costly. He never said it wouldn’t rumble in your stomach at 2am like a bad piece of meat.

So be inspired by others. Be challenged by their actions. But don’t wear the guilt of comparison. The question for you is simple:

What is God asking of you? Are you responding?

Lonely is at Least Safe

Erik Cooper —  November 29, 2010 — 3 Comments

You must risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most.

It’s a truth any entrepreneur understands. But it’s reality for all of us.  Risk to gain. I’m especially awakening to this in the area of relationships.  Even my closest ones.

We all long for deep connection.  To know and be known. It’s hard-wired into our DNA, evident since Adam and Eve walked naked in the Garden of Eden.  Man was created to be real, exposed, authentic (“I’m out there, Jerry, and I’m loving every minute of it!”).

With each other.

With God.


But sin created a gap, and like Adam and Eve we cover up.  The essence of our true selves still (somewhat) there, but shrouded to expose only the “acceptable” parts. The partial me.  The pieces I want you to see.

Because the rest brings shame. The rest becomes a target for judgment and ridicule. And who can blame us? We have a history of destroying one another through exposed weakness. So stay covered.  Stay hidden. Lonely is at least safe.

And therein lies the risk.

You long to be known as you really are. In all your weaknesses. All your insecurities. All your fears. That’s a risk, and risk means it may not work out like you planned.  In fact, it may not work out at all.

But are you willing to risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most?

Ashamed

Erik Cooper —  May 26, 2010 — 3 Comments

Shame comes in all shapes and sizes:

A big zit on your nose.

A past full of brokenness and abuse.

A rip in the seam of your pants.

A failed marriage.

Silly or serious, we’ve all felt it. The exposure of a vulnerability or apparent shortcoming that drives us to run away. To cover up. To hide. And unfortunately, The Church (my church, even me personally) can foster environments of shame, even when we’re not intentionally trying to.

It makes sense. The Church, a place of grace, hope, and unconditional love, is also an environment full of expectations. Standards of behavior naturally emerge in any culture, but engaging in Church culture comes with a built-in assumption of moral superiority. We profess faith in God and innately feel our lives should reflect that (even if we don’t).

And while some shame is understandably innate, some is undeniably overt. We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit there are many in the Church who willingly use shame as a means to control. To maintain power over people. To protect their personal preferences. To manipulate others towards their desired outcomes.

Innate or overt, when we fall short (which we always do), shame moves in. Becomes a constant companion. And shame is a horrific house guest.

God deals in conviction, not shame. Shame is based in condemnation, in pointing out deficiencies with the intent of rejecting, judging, or looking down on another. And Jesus didn’t come into the word to do that:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NLT)

Yet in so many church environments shame is still a primary motivator, filling our sanctuaries with guilty people. Hiding people. Manipulated people. Self-righteous people. Frightened people. Fake people. Or in more and more cases, empty seats.

So how do we know when God is convicting or when shame is condemning? Here’s some thoughts:

Shame is an ego-protection mechanism that focuses on how we appear to others.
Conviction is an inward re-alignment with who God is and has called us to be.

Shame conforms us to man-made expectations.
Conviction leads us to repentance.

Shame causes us to create false perceptions of reality.
Conviction leads us to openly face who we really are.

Shame manipulates and imprisons.
Conviction heals and frees.

Shame misuses aspects of truth to manage and control.
Conviction reconnects us to absolute truth.

Shame formulates outward behavioral modification.
Conviction births true inward transformation.

Shame pushes us towards self-protection.
Conviction pushes us towards Christ.

Shame asks us to do the work.
Conviction drives us towards the One who already did it all.

Which one is driving you? What is being fostered in your environments? What do you think?