Shame vs. True Conviction: Knowing the Difference at the Heart of the Battle

Jim Grimes

Shame and true conviction are very difficult concepts to grasp for shame can easily masquerade itself as true conviction. In addition, both produce very strong emotional reactions that result in changed behavior. So what are the definitions of shame and conviction? Shame is a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment, while true conviction is a firmly held belief or opinion. Knowing the difference is at the heart of the battle in dealing successfully with sexual addiction. Let’s take a look at where the resulting behaviors that come out of shame and true conviction lead.

On a recent visit to the discovery science center with my family, we spent some time at the sand and water exhibit learning about the effects of erosion. In reflection, this exhibit is a visual picture of destruction that shame can cause, and the devastating effects of shame on the spiritual health of men.

To begin with, the interactive exhibit allows you to construct a dam using sand, thereby backing up the water behind. Once the water accumulates, it literally tears away the walls of the dam, creating a small canyon for the water to escape through. Observing this phenomenon I was struck with how it reflects the effects of shame when dealing with addiction, and was reminded of Matthew 7:26 where the foolish man built his house on the sand.

Shame is sand when it comes to building relationships with ourselves and others. When the storms of life such as stress, problems at work, or conflict with your spouse arise, the coping abilities you possess can crumble because addiction provides you with a false sense of mastery. This is sinking sand because it produces shame. These strong negative emotions can lead to isolation, hiding, denial, division of the self, depression, decreased self-esteem, and feelings of anger towards oneself and others.

In Philippians 3:18-19 Paul speaks of people who are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.’

Shame focuses on the here and now, just like in the sand and water analogy of the exhibit. Once a breech was created, we had to focus our attention towards that one area, and we found that considerable effort was required in order for us to seal the breech and restore the dam.

Having seen that shame erodes away the very fabric of relationships with self and others, what are the results of true conviction? First off, a person receives numerous blessings from living out a life based on true conviction. Where shame led to the destruction of relationships, true conviction leads to strengthened relationships and community, openness, acceptance, union of the self, joy/happiness, healing, and increased self-esteem.

Living through true conviction is like building your house upon the rock. The storms of life will come and rage against you, but you will stand because you have built wisely. Proverbs 28:13 states, ‘he who conceals his transgression will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.’ 1 John 1:9 says that ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Within a humble man, true conviction leads to confession. In confession, you find compassion, and in compassion, healing and restoration.

This week, I challenge you to spend some time engaging in an object lesson: create a dam in your backyard using dirt and a garden hose, and observe the devastation that transpires when a small break is formed in the dam you built. As you do this, train your mind to listen to and respond to true conviction rather than to shame. Shame works to destroy your inner life and your sense of self, just like water quickly erodes away a dam once it’s broken. Instead, stop the break and erosion. Rebuild your life and character by responding to the true conviction of the Holy Spirit through confession, openly taking responsibility for your actions, and choosing to build your house upon the Rock.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Holiness

Mark Verkler

“The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.” ‘ A.W. Tozer

If Tozer is correct we need to understand, meditate and grow in the knowledge of God’s Holiness. But what is holiness? The most significant meaning of holy is to be ‘separate.’ God is separate, unique, and apart from us. Being holy includes moral purity. When something is made holy it is set apart to purity. And we learn from scripture that God is holy in every part of his nature and character.

In the book The Holiness of God,( p 40) R. C. Sproul says this about Isaiah 6:

‘The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.’

The emphasis from scripture shows us that God is Holy and separate; above and apart from us. Though we were made in the image of God, we were not made God. His holiness is above and beyond our imagination. And yet we are called to meditate and grow in our knowledge of God and his attributes.

Let’s look at some great scriptures to help us learn about and meditate on the holiness of God.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11, NKJV).

No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2, NKJV)

He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He. (Deut 32:4, NKJV)

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev 15:4, NKJV)

The Holiness of God is something to meditate on, something to chew on. I urge you to spend some time meditating on these verses’chew them up. G. K. Chesterton said ‘The object of opening the mind as of opening the mouth is to close it again on something solid.’ The Holiness of God is something solid. It is something to meditate on and hold onto. Reverence and awe should be a natural result of our growing in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holiness.
We find the scripture gives us a progression from the Holiness of God to our calling as believers in Christ.

Later we see that because God is holy, we are called to be holy. Many believe that is something that is unattainable and therefore unreasonable to aim for. We might ask the question ‘If I am not aiming for holiness, what am I aiming for?’

Let’s look at some verses about this:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. (Lev. 11:44a, NKJV)

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NKJV)

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6, NKJV)

Can we be holy like God this side of Heaven? Apparently not in a complete way, but it is still to be our aim. And when we miss the mark we confess our sins to God and our brothers in Christ. It keeps us humble and dependent on our need for the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. Joseph Caryl said it this way, ‘Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth, and it is the reward of the saints in Heaven.’ And in 1 John 3:2 (NKJV) we read this:
‘Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

So we see that our calling is to pursue the knowledge of God and His holiness, to grow in our understanding and reverence for His holiness. If we look to God and His holiness it will draw our hearts and minds in that direction. George McDonald said, ‘We remain such creeping Christians because we look at ourselves instead of Christ.’
We’ll close with an excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest September 1 devotional, Oswald Chambers:

Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is. The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. Nowadays we have far too many affinities, we are dissipated with them; right, good, noble affinities which will yet have their fulfillment, but in the meantime God has to atrophy (whither) them. The one thing that matters is whether a man will accept the God Who will make him holy. At all costs a man must be rightly related to God.

Knowing the ROCK; Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 4

David Mackey

If you are new to the reading of these articles here is a short review: Just as false intimacy was part of what helped maintain our addiction, TRUE intimacy will strengthen our recovery. So this series will look at 4 of the many facets of intimacy which can be found in an intimate relationship with God AND with others.

This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately. So far we have looked at the idea of being free from shame and being listened to with acceptance and understanding as pieces, deep pieces, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See’ relationship.

In verse 3 of Psalm 31, David, reveals yet another facet of intimacy. I can’t say that I have ever thought of being lead or guided as a piece of intimacy. For David it was. If you think about it awhile you might conclude that after someone listens ‘In-To” someone; after perhaps seeing another’s shame and vulnerability, then leading/ guiding them seems like another part of an intimate relationship.

In his book Pursuit of Intimacy, David Ferguson identifies one of the ‘foundational blocks’ of intimacy as ‘joint accomplishment.’ He contends that in intimate marital relationships a couple accomplishes things together. So working together to buy and/or build a home together, raise children together, complete grad school together, etc. contributes to a deeper level of intimacy in couples.

Think about the intimacy that develops with your Band of Brothers as you lead and guide each other through the battle. Think about the intimacy that develops with God as you listen to His Word and His Spirit leads and guides you through the battle. There is comfort and security found in being lead and guided within a truly intimate relationship. So for David intimacy was not just a passive event in which he was listened to. He knew that as God listened He was also guiding David, preparing him for perhaps more of the same battles David had dealt with throughout his life.

This is indeed a messed up world. We have found a common set of struggles among men who struggle with sexual impurity. Father wounds, mother wounds, abuse wounds, neglect wounds and many other past issues, very often affect us today. Present issues, wounds, and struggles are often magnified by our past issues. So we need guidance, we need preparation, we need tools for battle. Knowing God as your Rock, Refuge and Fortress, i.e. having an ‘In-To Me-See’ relationship with God will not just bring healing from past battles but preparation for future battles. False Intimacy didn’t/doesn’t prepare us for anything. Rather it weakened us. We sought comfort in false intimacy and it gave us none. We sought to rid ourselves of some of our shame only to find we were beaten down by deeper and deeper shame. We sought excitement and even happiness only to find terror and depression. If anything in us was at all satisfied with acting out, then other needs and desires of our life became damaged even more.

God invites into True Intimacy with Himself and with others. Part of true intimacy actually leads us, guides us, and prepares us for the Battle. We are not in this alone. Perhaps the most famous of Psalms says even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He is with us. What a blessing!! It would seem that if we know God as our Rock, Refuge, and Fortress He doesn’t only walk beside us through the battle, the valley, but he leads us and guides us through. More Blessing!! This is intimacy with God. And it is what exists in an intimate relationship with others. Someone listening to the cry of our heart, just listening and understanding and accepting.

So we find another piece of a wonderful invitation God gives us through David! God invites us to be lead and guided while sitting in the Rock, Refuge, and Fortress! Intimacy: Knowing God as your Rock, Refuge and Fortress. What will recovery be like knowing that God is there to lead and guide you through this battle. His Word is not a list of rules’ it intimately leads and guides us through the battles. In your recovery pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. Remember, this is not a command from God but rather, it is an invitation. Intimacy with God and others is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5