Stop Speaking To Guilt, Start Speaking To Shame


Our guilt has to do with the things that we’ve done that we were never created to do.  It’s the Genesis 3 story, (where we bought into Satan’s lie that we were not enough and began doing the things we shouldn’t have done).

Shame on the other hand has to do with the people we’ve become.

There is guilt, and there is shame. One speaks to our action, the other speaks of our soul.  Jesus came to carry and kill both.

For many parents, we raise our children with affirmation, encouragement, and a love that hit us like a truck the day they entered our world.  Many of us and many of our children were lucky enough to grow up in a framing narrative which says that we/they were created with intent, welcomed with love, and raised with the best of efforts.  Even among the discipline, the groundings, the timeouts, the spankings, and taking a way the teenager’s car, there is still a framing narrative that communicates to a kid that they’ve been disciplined because of what they’re guilty of doing, but they’re still loved for who they are. The framing narrative says, “My guilt does not define who I am.  My guilt is overcome by love’s grace.”

This is different for a child who has gone through trauma (a hurt child).  At some point the lies of Genesis 3 seep into the soul of these young ones.  Their guilt does not only speak to their action, it speaks to who they are.  They don’t lie, they are liers.  They don’t steal, they are theives.  They are not victims of abuse and neglect, they are objects unworthy of respect and care.  Their framing narrative is Genesis 3.  They have been robbed of the Genesis 1 beginning where we were told, “you are my most prized possession and I sing over you”.

If you have found yourself in a season where you are parenting or leading a hurt child, my speculation is that we cannot speak solely to their guilt.  Due to their past trauma they do not carry an underlying assumption that they are loved, worthy of respect and full of dignity (especially when they are guilty of doing something).

Their behavior has been attached to their being, and because of it we must always dig deeper and speak to their shame.  

We must make even the smallest disciplinary moments about more than just behavior or guilt.  We must reinforce a Genesis 1 framing story.  Yes, lying is not ok in my family and this must be communicated, but I must begin with their worth, their value, their love, and their security in my steadfast love.

When it comes to the hurt child a resilient focus on their guilt is nothing more than the full on extension of the law.  Speaking to their being points to the presence and power of the gospel. 

Remember, Jesus did not just come to die for our guilt, He came also to carry and kill our shame.

We must never forget that before Genesis 3, there was Genesis 1.

We are His most prized possesion.  We were lovely, because He loved us.  This posture must be found at the most primal level of parenting the hurt child.  May we make this paradigm shift as we parent, knowing that it is the same shift that our heavenly Father has made for us.