In my last post, I suggested there might be a link between our driven need to succeed at work and the power of shame in our lives. In this post, I want to unveil the Jesus answer to this issue. We begin with some stock answers.
4 Cultural Antidotes to Shame.
- Find and do something you’re good at. (But no position or capacity lasts forever, and there’s always someone better.)
- Lower you expectations (But how low should we go in this game of life expectations limbo? Particular when a whole chorus of voices sells us formulas so we can do more.)
- Find people who will show you empathy (We should all show and receive empathy. Yes. Valuable yet easier said than done.)
- Get over it. (This is the great western antidote to anything emotional, forget about it and move on. Can’t we agree that this unsolution is not working?)
Most of the above advice has value. But it is limited in its long-term change-power because it is a closed system. The system is you and me. “You” may be many, the voices of those who hate me, whom I should ignore, the chorus of fans, who I should also ignore! “You” may be just the single person I count on to love me, to give me the affirmation, and the empathy I desire. But it’s a closed system, you and me, me and you. There are only 2 voices in this conversation. To this limited, binary exchange comes the powerful affect of a faith, faith that connects us to the reality of Jesus. Jesus is the third voice. The system is no longer closed. And he can silence our shame for good. How does this work?
Value and Sufficiency
Shame is the conclusion that one is worthless and insufficient as a person. In Jesus, we find these two poles of shame segregated. No human being is worthless. All of us matter to God. We humans bear God’s image. We are the objects of his daily and general concern. We are the beneficiaries of his most costly undertaking, the coming of Christ to rescue us. For believers in Jesus, we see the value of humans in the price he paid—a complete and total sacrifice of himself.
What does this mean:
1) nothing, nothing: this seems a bit extreme. People can clearly accomplish many notable and valuable things without conscious dependence on Christ. Yet concepts like the providence of God working through human work and his real-time sustaining of the universe may get us close to this most wooden of intepretations.
2) nothing lasting or satisfying because our faults will get in the way. This seems to be the moral of the tragedy genre of literature and coincides well with that Rolling Stones part of us that “can’t get no…”
3) nothing spiritual, nothing valuable to God. The scriptures balance our infinite worth to God with a dismal outlook on our moral capability to live up to God’s dream for us. We instinctively go against God’s designs for our lives. So we are bad people whom God values, loves anyway, and can empower to change.
No matter what “nothing” means, it reflects real limits to human sufficiency. This can press our shame button if we get stuck here. Yet Jesus doesn’t leave us with our nothing. He says without me you can do nothing, but with me, you can have a fruitful life—a life of meaningful, productive, and even joy-filled existence.
So Jesus liberates from the “success to silence shame” syndrome. Jesus’ answer to the shame that drives our overwork is salvation. He establishes our value, and he provides a 3rd voice that speaks forgiveness and power to change. When Christ silences shame, work becomes an adventure. It is a journey of discovery where we realize our god-given potential and seize the opportunities he places in our path without our ultimate worth hanging in the balance.
How About You?
How about you? Have you witnessed the Christ-powered freedom from shame in your approach to work? How did this come about? What positive change did it bring about?