"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
This is a Scripture I've been pondering for the last couple of days. Many Christians relate this Scripture specifically to sin. And it's true--sin IS a pattern. It always has been. But what is the root of all sin? SELF. There are other parts to the pattern, though.
Last night, our discussion at church was about shame and the difference between shame and conviction. A lot of people project their feelings about themselves on to God, assuming that he feels the way about them that they have been made to feel about themselves. A lot of us think that God's desire is to shame us into "good behavior", when that's really a human thing.
God's pattern isn't shame. His pattern for our lives involves the Fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Do you see shame anywhere in there? No. When God reprimands us, he doesn't use shame. Shame is meant to inflict feelings of unworthiness and it's meant to manipulate. But when God speaks into the sinful places in our lives, it's out of love. That's what conviction is.
Shame leads us to close inward. It can be a prison that affects a person for the duration of his life, and can be found at the root of all kinds of addictions. We learn shame. It's not something we're born with. Shame is a hard thing to shake, and it's an easy pattern to fall into, especially when we go through difficult times.
The conviction of the Spirit is love. It's meant to free us and help us escape the prison of shame that could so easily enclose us. Conviction is God saying, "Here's an open door. I know you're struggling, but here's a way of escape. If you follow me, I'll lead you out."
People who live in a pattern of shame are emotionally immature. They struggle with feelings of unworthiness. They never think they're good enough they way they are. They're unable to be happy with themselves as they are in the present time, always thinking "if only." They either feel the need to please and be liked by everyone, or they have a rebellious nature that lashes out in anger when they feel like someone is trying to control them.
Shame is a state of extremes. Shamed people try to belittle others because of their insecurities, and are often tempted to gossip. Unless they learn to break out of it, those who struggle with it stay at the emotional age that they were when shame first entered their lives, and they often live in a pattern of addiction or compulsive behaviors.
Realizing the core difference between shame and conviction can free us from that pattern. The world tells us we're not good enough, but God tells us that He has made us good enough. Shame manipulates us into conforming to a desired pattern (the pattern of this world), but love pulls us out of the box that shame puts us in. If you're feeling shame, that's not God. If you use shame as a means of manipulation, that's not God. If you're feeling like you're not enough, that's not God. If you're feeling unworthy, that's not God.
If we allow Him, God can cut us to fit His pattern. He cuts off all the unnecessary parts--the shame, fear and unworthiness we carry--and sews us together with love to make a whole, beautiful tapestry.
I want to encourage you to take a look at the behavior patterns in your life and see if you notice shame at the core of any of them. If you do, it's not too late to change. God always offers us a way of escape from our insecurities and temptations, if we are able to just listen to the conviction of His Spirit.
It's not going to happen overnight, but it's never too late to escape from a life of shame.
All the way, my Savior leads me...