Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Guilt and Shame - Study

I wanted to do a study on guilt and shame and how they are used and treated in scripture. They both appear to be things that rob you of your faith. 

Guilt and shame are some of the first feelings (right after fear) described in scripture after the fall.  We often view guilt as an emotion, but that's not the only way it appears scripture.  In scriptures guilt is also used as in a legal status and not an emotion.  One is either guilty or innocent, etc.  Christ changes our status if we will repent and come unto Him.  However scriptures also seem to use both guilt and shame as feelings.

Psychology says that guilt is a feeling stemming from "I caused the problem".   It's related to how something has affected others. It's counter part, shame, is described as stemming from "I am the problem".  It revolves around self.  Feeling that you caused the problem brings what we call guilt where as you feeling as though you yourself are the problem brings feelings of what we call shame.  Shame often is accompanied by embarrassment or humiliation.

The first example is obviously the garden of Eden.  Whereas Adam and Ever were not ashamed of being naked, that all changed with the eating of the fruit.  Fear, guilt and shame showed up and caused them to want to hide from their creator, as if that were possible. Our attempts to cover ourselves and hide from God will always fall short.

An example of shame in this parable, found in Luke.  This shame appears to accompany embarrassment although the word embarrassed isn't used.  Needing to save face is related to this kind of shame.

Luke 9:5 (RE)

And he put forth a parable unto them concerning those who were bidden to a wedding, for he knew how they chose out the chief rooms and exalted themselves one above another. Wherefore he spoke unto them, saying, When you are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more distinguished man than you be bidden of him, and he who bade you, with him who is more distinguished, come and say to you, Give this man place, and you begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when you are bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room, that when he who bade you comes, he may say unto you, Friend, go up higher. Then shall you have honor of God in the presence of them who sit at a meal with you. For, whoever exalts himself shall be abased and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

Jacob 4:2.  Uses both guilt and shame together.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts. Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die? For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire? Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets? And will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ after so many have spoken concerning him? And deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the holy ghost, and quench the holy spirit? And make a mock of the great plan of redemption which hath been laid for you? Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection which is in Christ will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God?

The Book of Mormon obviously connects guilt with sin and uses the word in the context of God, often the "last day" or judgement bar where guilt is foretold to be awful for those experiencing it. But guilt is not just reserved for that day, it's used in present tense and also even used positively a few times.  Such as Enos having his guilt swept away because he had heard from the Lord and knew the Lord could not lie. In Alma they speak of God taking away the guilt in their hearts through the merits of His Son.

Other BOM uses of shame are being "ashamed".  This word occurs in Lehi's vision where people partake of the fruit of the tree in the vision but are later ashamed because of other scoffing at them.  That negative reaction to their choices produced shame inside them.  Moroni poses the question to the latter day audience of why people are ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ.

The A&C has this to say about shame:

Your visages have been so marred that your hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousies and anger toward your fellow man bear outward witness of your inner self; you cannot hide it. When I appear to you, instead of confidence, you feel shame. You fear and withdraw from me because you bear the blood and sins of your treatment of brothers and sisters. Come to me and I will make sins as scarlet become white as snow, and I will make you stand boldly before me, confident of my love.

So what do we do about shame, guilt, humiliation, embarrassment?  What's the escape?

I found four ideas to consider in my study:

First:  The A&C says to come unto Christ and He will make sins as scarlet become white as snow and He will make us stand boldly before Him confident of His love.  So first is to come to Christ and find confidence in His love.  Coming to Him involves repentance, accepting His words, (whomever they come through) ordinances, and obeying His commandments.

Second:  Another idea to escape shame and guilt I believe is confession. Confessing sins, faults, admitting errors, and not hiding them in the dark.  Confessing to God at minimum, and others as appropriate. The idea of confession seems to be a scriptural path out and brings healing.

 -Proverbs  4:82 He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
   -John 1:3.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
   -Jacob 1:24  "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Third: Humility and meekness also appear to be paths that allow the individual to proceed forward.  Humiliation can lead to humility.  So we should let it. And be humble, because humility can proceed with a clear conscience.

Fourth: Letting go. The truth is that God forgives and forgets.  Appears God does not see any value or benefit in holding on to such things, so even He forgets.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (RE: 1 John 1:3).

Paul declared in Philippians RE 1:12: “Brethren, I count not myself to have laid hold of but one thing: forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus.”

"How do I act toward mankind? If men intend no offense, I take no offense, but if they are taught and should have obeyed, then I reprove and correct, and forgive and forget." T&C 157: 58

God forgives and He forgets, and so must you.