The Danger of Shame

Valerie Ferrara

…When Eve gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. -Genesis 4:1-8

 

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles.  -1 Timothy 1:18

Mr. Davis Franklin, AP European History and English 10 World Literature teacher, Varsity Cross Country coach, and Lionhearts leader, “taught” more than “preached” when he addressed Chapel Wednesday morning. “There is a difference between shame and guilt,” he said. Referring to the account of Cain and Abel, Mr. Franklin told students that a proper sacrifice is given in humility and thanksgiving; Cain’s sacrifice did not come from a place of humility. “God came to Cain as a coach,” Mr. Franklin said. “He wanted Cain to do the right thing.”

God told Cain sin was “crouching at the door.” The picture here is of a wild beast ready to pounce and devour. God also said Cain “must master” it – Cain must have dominion over the sin. Why did Cain fail to heed God’s warning? Mr. Franklin suggested it was because of shame; Cain identified himself with the sin (of an unacceptable offering). “We think we are our own accomplishments or our failures, but we are so much more than either of those,” Mr. Franklin said. “Shame pulls us inward and causes us to pull others down. Shame leads to despair, which is believing one’s sin is beyond God’s forgiveness.”

Mr. Franklin then moved on to talk about early Christianity, saying many of the first converts to Christianity were soldiers. Why? The soldiers of that time lived in a culture of honor and shame. They were men who had done terrible things to others and had terrible things done to them – things they could not live with. Shame devalues one’s humanity, Mr. Franklin explained, and brings the feeling that one has lost one’s soul. The message of Christ makes clear that in Him, one cannot lose one’s soul.

“The Apostle Paul said to forget the past and look forward – but we must struggle,” Mr. Franklin exhorted. Paul told Timothy to remember the prophetic words spoken over him so they might help him fight well the Lord’s battles, and at the end of his life Paul said he had “fought the good fight.”

Mr. Franklin closed by encouraging the students to be thankful. “Don’t identify with shame or sin or even your accomplishments,” he said. “Your identity is not in the college to which you have been accepted or awards you have won, but your identity is as a child of the living God.”