Shame Has Two Sides

Allow me to share one of the most meaningful quotes I’ve ever heard: “We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.”  I teach this principle in my counseling practice nearly every day.  I’ve tried to engrain it into my adult children ever since the day I first heard it.  I strive to live it as a mantra in my own life.  So, obviously I feel strongly that the readers of my first book need to understand it.  Further, this paradox serves as a quiet voice underlying every aspect of this book.

Healthy shame with woman eating donutI feel certain the intent of the original author was entirely neutral, not qualitative at all.  No implied meaning.  Nothing between the lines…  Its relevance would depend upon the lens in which the reader or hearer processes the statement that would attach either a positive or a negative value to it.

There is an intrinsic part of these words, though, that sends a message even more relevant than the nature of what is “taught” or “reproduced.”  It is the implication – maybe even claim – that the footprint you and I leave in this world is only negligibly about what we do, but profoundly about who we are.

There is a not-so-common word assigned to this concept of reproducing who we are.  The word is IMPART.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “impart” in this way: “To give, convey, or grant from.”

What makes imparting unique is that it is more about the learner than it is about the teacher.  More about what is being learned than what is believed to be being taught.  Shame works that way.  Human beings have a propensity to have shame imparted to them when the source may not even know they are imparting it.

Over the past 50 years or so, our American culture has come to associate the concept of “shame” with something that is necessarily undesirable or hurtful.  In all fairness, shame is an integral part of how we as human beings effectively function in this world, but it has been hijacked by the enemy and turned into an obstacle to our experiencing the unconditional love of our Creator.

Heads or Tails?

Throughout this book I use the metaphor of a two-sided coin to illustrate the tension inherent in living a life in Christ.  Shame is the first example of that.  One concept – two sides.

Shame Has Two Sides

The moment a person receives Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit (the spirit of Jesus sent to His followers after He ascended into heaven) comes to live in their heart.  Billy Graham said, “There is not a person anywhere who can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. There is not a person who can follow Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit.”

As you can imagine, the presence of a Holy God taking up residence in the heart of a less-than-holy individual tends to create an inner tension.  This tension is illustrated by the two sides of an imaginary coin:  1) the side surrendered to God’s spirit within, and 2) the side driven by the needs of self.

The apostle Paul described this ongoing battle within himself in Romans 7:24-25 (MSG):

“I need something more!  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope.  Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.  He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

You and I are really no different than Paul.  Mere men and women living life with an inner battle – not a battle for good versus bad or right versus wrong or black versus white, but a struggle between flesh and spirit.  Our nature versus Jesus’s nature.  Control versus surrender.

The A-Side of the Record

Long before the internet and MP3s were ever even thought of, “A-side” and “B-side” were terms frequently used to refer to the two sides of a phonograph record.  The A-side usually featured a song that its artist, producer, or record company focused their promotions toward in hopes of it becoming a hit record.  The B-side (or “flipside”) was a secondary recording that typically received much less attention, and in many cases was hardly worth listening to.

The A-side of the two-sided coin is a life lived in grace – a daily relationship with Jesus, defined by love and grace and mercy and forgiveness and acceptance and connectedness and true freedom.  This life can only be realized in the presence of healthy shame (I often refer to as developmental shame, due to it being learned primarily during the formative years of childhood).

Healthy shame keeps us grounded.  It is the emotional energy that tells us we are not God – that we have made and will make mistakes, that we need help.  Healthy shame is a normal human emotion that lets us know we are limited, which is part of our humanity.  It signals us about our limits and motivates us to meet our basic needs.

By knowing our limits and finding ways to use our energy more effectively, healthy shame can give us a form of personal power.  Healthy shame does not allow us to believe we “know it all,” but spurs us to make significant life changes.  In knowing that we have made mistakes and are not perfect or always right, we can continue to strive to grow and discover.  Healthy shame gives us permission to be human!


God wants you to be free from the grip of toxic shame in your life.  If you’ve ready to take the first step (or maybe next step) please call us today for Christian counseling.  Our counselors are specifically equipped to work with men and women who are ready to peel away the layers and get to the core of their struggles.  Our team is specifically experienced and equipped to walk with you on this journey from brokenness to wholeness. Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at