A Healthy Sense of Shame

by Rick Liggin

What ever happened to our sense of shame? Is there nothing that shocks us as a nation anymore? Have we forgotten what it means to be embarrassed? Is there anyone among us who still knows how to blush?

These questions came rushing to my mind recently when I learned that the city of Chicago has now named a street in honor of porn king and Playboy Magazine owner, Hugh Hefner. How in the world does a leading city in this "Christian nation" stoop to honor the king of smut? Hasn't his magazine (and others like it) done enough to destroy our society as it is? And now we honor this evil man! Something is wrong with that! The report went on to inform us that after the street naming ceremony, Mr. Hefner was off to some southern university "to scout out new talent." Is there no shame?

The question came to my mind again, as I watched a recent "Today" program with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. In one segment, Katie spoke with ice-skating star, Rudy Galindo, about his testing HIV positive as a result of homosexual, "unsafe sex." There was no expression of remorse for his participation in what the Bible calls a "degrading passion" (Rom. 1:26-27); no shame and no embarrassment. Just an effort to encourage the practice of "safe sex." More than anything else, he wanted people to learn from his situation that "safe sex is not an empty slogan." Isn't there something wrong with that?!

Earlier this spring, we had an interesting conversation with one of our local high school guidance counselors. We were asking about whether or not the mandatory swimming classes are mixed (boys and girls in the same classes). She told us that their experience at this high school was that co-ed swimming just doesn't work with ninth and tenth graders. "They're just too embarrassed for the opposite sex to see their bodies," she said; but went on to say that by eleventh and twelfth grade, "the students are okay with it." I want to know what happens between tenth and eleventh grade that makes this true? Somehow, by the eleventh grade our young people are losing their sense of shame! Something is seriously wrong with that!

Now you may not be surprised by these illustrations--and I guess I'm not really either. I've known for a long time that our world--and especially our nation--has been corrupted, has become totally immoral, and has lost all sense of shame. We are indeed a nation of people "whose glory is in their shame" (Phil. 3:19); that is we "glory" in (and are most proud of) the very thing that we ought to be ashamed of! Our ethical values are so inverted that what should embarrass us doesn't, and what ought not to embarrass us does! And something is terribly wrong with that! But what can I do about it?

What can we--the people of God--do about it? Well, one thing that I know we can do is at least not allow ourselves to be forced into the world's mold! We can keep ourselves from conforming to our age (Rom. 12:2)!

But right here is where I become most disturbed! I'm troubled by how corrupt our nation is, but I'm even more concerned by how many among us--the people of God--are being infected by our society! Like those around us, we're losing our sense of shame. We're no longer embarrassed about sexual sin among us.

Adultery and divorce are commonplace in the church--even among its leaders--and we're not ashamed! Problems with pornography are rampant--and we're not embarrassed. Pregnancy outside of marriage is dismissed among us with a casual "kids make mistakes" excuse--and no one blushes! No longer is it just the young folks who slip off to the public swimming pool or wear the modern mini skirts; now it's most people in the church who "can't see anything wrong with" mixed swimming or immodest dress.

Where is that sense of shame that ought to be rooted fast within the individual's character (1 Tim. 2:9-10)? Slowly, because of our own spiritual carelessness, that sense of shame has been eroded. We become desensitized to sin and hardened by its deceitfulness (Heb. 3:12-13). Suddenly, we're not embarrassed by the language around us or the undress or the flirtation with sin. And the next thing you know, we're involved in it maybe a bit tentatively at first, but soon enough we get over it and then we're "okay with it." And the next thing you know we're right there in it with the rest of the world! And the next thing you know we're lost!

Something has got to be done to recapture our sense of shame! It's time for us to wake up, "for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone and the day is at hand." It's time for us to "lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." It's time for us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Rom. 13:11-14). It's time for us to start thinking more soberly and start developing a healthy sense of shame! -- Via Think on These Things, July-August-September, 2000

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