We often hear the phrase, “Shame on you!” or “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” when we do something unacceptable. The truth is, we do feel ashamed, but do we learn anything? Usually not.
Think of overbearing parents who want their children to achieve well in school. If one child fails to meet the parents’ expectations, a common tool for correction is to embarrass the child in front of their siblings or other friends. For example one parent might say, “John would have made all As, but his best wasn’t good enough when it came to his science final.” While the child might study harder in the future, his shame can lead to resentment (toward his parents and school), even though that was never what the parents wanted to happen. In essence, using shame, guilt, or embarrassment for positive change can be a kiss of death.
As humans, we use shame to change behavior. Our intentions might be good, but the result is often not what we intend. Religious leaders can often use shame to gain control over their followers.
Adam and Eve felt ashamed when they realized their nakedness, but it was not God who shamed them, it was their sin. The Holy Spirit convicts, corrects, teaches, and leads us in life-giving understanding. If we want to be effective leaders, we must follow suit.