“Without complete honesty and vulnerability, unresolved shame can become a barrier to God turning our broken pieces into masterpieces.” Dr. Dave Ralston
Toxic Shaming: An American Icon
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet numerous high-profile people throughout my life – professional athletes, celebrities, dignitaries, and government leaders – Ronald Reagan, Jalen Rose, Michael W. Smith, Dick Vitale, Bo Schembechler, Steve Urkle, Larry Bird, Hulk Hogan, Bill Clinton, Chris Webber, Tom Landry, John Baker, Mitch Albom, Magic Johnson, Gerald Ford, Kyle Idleman, and countless others. Yet none of these encounters was as memorable as when I personally spent an afternoon with Muhammad Ali in his grand hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ali is what many in America would refer to as a cultural icon. Webster’s defines the word “icon” as: “An object or person that is identified by members of a culture as representative of that culture.” For decades his face and message appeared routinely in all forms of mainstream American life. Muhammad Ali had become a significant part of the cultural landscape.
Toxic Shame – An Icon?
As far back as the Mayflower Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620, America has had the cultural norm of utilizing shaming as a means of discipline, particularly in the disciple of children, woven into its DNA. A methodology we in the twenty-first century have come to perceive as detrimental is what our predecessors considered to be right, godly, and necessary.
Check out this excerpt from an article by the Journal of Family Studies:
As early American Puritans broke from the English church, the subjugation of children was formalized, dissuading (discouraging) them against challenging or rebelling against authority in the slightest. Puritan children were taught that by disobeying their parents they were forcing God to condemn them to eternal death, and that strong discipline through physical punishment could bring salvation to children. If disobedient, children were whipped in public and forced to make public confessions in front of a meeting of adults. Matters such as rights of children were never considered.
These harsh forms of discipline apparently defined the American family, church, and community for centuries, rising to the status of a cultural icon worth aspiring to. It became the outwardly visible representation of their dedication to purity, morality, and righteousness, which many believed were foundational to the life in godliness that our nation was built upon.
According to The Bible
Respectfully, our forefathers believed these cultural standards were fully corroborated by the Bible, using these and similar Old Testament scriptures as their foundation:
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15 NIV).
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die” (Proverbs 23:13 NIV).
“Punish them with the rod and save them from death” (Proverbs 23:14 NIV).
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” (Proverbs 22:15 NIV).
“Physical punishment cleanses away evil; such discipline purifies the heart” (Proverbs 20:30 NLT).
I have no intention to create a theological discussion over the deeper meaning of any of these proverbs, or to judge other generations’ belief systems. I concur that every word of the Holy Bible is without error, each part written entirely through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We must be honest with ourselves though. Any flaw or contradiction we might perceive in God’s word is not a mis-step on God’s part, but a mis-interpretation on ours.
When each of us reads the words of the Bible, we all have a tendency to “interpret” what we read through the lens of our own personal needs, beliefs, and life experiences. I’m confident that God did not provide us His word that we might interpret it in a way that would fit it into our will and purposes, either individually or corporately. Rather, I believe we were given this precious gift to guide us, as a cohesive church, in understanding God’s will and purposes.
Scripture Through The Lens Of Jesus
In order to even begin to understand God’s heart in the scriptures, it’s critical we read it through the only lens that is capable of capturing God’s heart fully and accurately: Jesus Christ. Jesus is not merely the central character in the Bible. or a man who freely gave his life on a criminal’s cross as a substitute for the punishment you and I should have received. He IS the unfolding story of the Bible — cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation. It’s all about Him – His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness, and His self-control. These characteristics can only become a part of us as His followers through His grace and our faithful submission. Any lens other than Jesus will lead us to conclusions that do not accurately reflect that nature and character of God we see personified in Jesus.
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