KAMIAH I have a confession to make. I used to be a crook! No, I didn’t rob banks or steal from the poor, but I still was a thief. It happened in my childhood. Two of my neighborhood friends and I figured out that a vending machine that required 50 cents to dispense candy bars also worked with 2 cent coins. We nearly emptied the machine in a few minutes. By doing so I did not only become guilty of theft, a crime, I also brought a lot of shame on my family and myself. My family was known in the community; my grandfather was a pastor. Although I was still young, I clearly felt the burden of what I had done to my family and how I had dishonored God.
This is one of my stories. You may have a different one with similar outcome. guilt and shame washed over you. Is there anything that can be done for people like us? Thankfully there is! It begins with being honest, by acknowledging what we did. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a movement that began by understanding that the path to recovery starts with ruthless honesty. When someone shares in front of the group, they begin by: Hi, my name is …. and I am an alcoholic. “Fessing up” like that not only encourages others to do the same, it also lays the groundwork for forgiveness, restoration and restitution. By acknowledging our guilt, we take the penalty appropriate to the crime, for instance a hefty fine and the mandate to repay the one we stole from. After that, our guilt is taken care of. I did bad and paid for it. But what about the shame we brought upon ourselves and innocent others, like our family and friends? While guilt deals with “I did bad,” shame leaves us with the sense of “I am bad.”
God’s Good News is that He paid the penalty for our guilt, but He also carried our shame and restores us to honor. If you are dealing with unresolved guilt or shame, come to Jesus in confession and repentance and receive freedom from guilt and shame. Anyone who belongs to Jesus Christ has become a new person (new creation). The old life is gone; a new life has begun.
Volkhard Graf is with Youth with a Mission in Kamiah.