The Power of Shame

I am discovering that many men suffer silently from shame. Shame has so much to do with the way you see yourself. Your sense of value and worth as a person. Shame generally is a result of perceived failure—whether it be business failure, financial failure, athletic failure, academic failure, relational failure or moral failure.

Shame, according to the popular lecturer Malcom Smith, is the “leukemia of masculinity.” It makes many men determined to hide their fears and their faults. If we believe we don’t have what it takes to be a man—that we aren’t adequate and we don’t measure up—it invalidates our sense of manhood. Shame is what destroys men’s lives.

What happens is that we find our identity as men, our sense of worth, from someone outside of ourselves. We allow them to participate in the shaping of our identity. Once we conform to the standards of this audience, we let them determine how well we are doing in our assigned role and define how successful we are in life.

I readily admit there is an audience out there that powerfully influences who we are and how we measure up. The same is true for most men. And though we may not like it, we yearn for their approval. We want to exceed their expectations. Doesn’t this beg the question: Who is my audience, the people that I have empowered to determine my value and worth as an individual?

And sadly, we often unconsciously allow our audience to make the final verdict on the value of our lives. The reality, however, is that the verdict is not “in” because our performance is never “over.” No matter how much applause we received yesterday, we can’t be certain we will receive it again tomorrow.

But what might happen if we let the person who determines our worth be God? Recognizing that God is the supreme and ultimate reality who stands behind all of life is crucial for all of us.

In Ephesians 2:10 we learn: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them (author paraphrase).

Workmanship, as used by Paul here, comes from the Greek word poiema, which literally means “work of art.” As men, our lives are of incredible value simply because we are God’s work of art, His masterpiece. That alone is the marvel of life itself.

Your worth as a person has to do with your value. Your value is not based on what you do but on who made you. God is telling us that He is the One who gave us our existence, our very being. We are here for a reason, for a purpose. God has a plan for our lives—a plan that is full of meaning and purpose.

Why will people pay millions for a painting by Rembrandt? It’s not only because of its beauty but because of the artist who painted it. Our lives are of such great worth because each of us is God’s work of art. The great demonstration of our incredible worth and value to God is that He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world. His willingness to die for us was the most visible way that God could express to each of us that we matter to Him and He loves us individually, each and every one of us. When a man can get this truth into his life it will transform his identity and the fear of shame will diminish.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


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