Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
19 “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20 All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. John 3:19-20, CEB
Living in shame because we’re not perfect implies that we failed at something we were expected to do: Live perfectly. This is the problem. We were never expected to live perfectly. We are expected to allow the reality of ourselves to come to light so that, we trust, we are given the capacity to be the types of people who can love God and love others which, we’re told, leads to abundant life.
Living in shame means we believe something that is patently untrue: that God needs our performance in order to love us when, in reality, God’s love has always gone first. If our core belief is a lie then we are in trouble because we are not living in accordance with truth (or “light”). When our core belief tells us we need to perform, and then we live in shame, we are hiding in darkness and refusing the gift of life that God offers.
Don’t you see the beauty of this? We’re told to live in the light so that we may have life, not so that we may have fear. Acknowledging the reality of who we are does not lead to embarrassment, shame, or self-flagellation. It does not lead to scorn or isolation or abandonment. It is the very thing that allows us to draw near to God. It leads to life because acknowledging the truth about ourselves is all that is necessary in order to receive, from God, the ability to love.
If we choose shame, then we are choosing to affirm the lie that tells us we must be good enough. It’s a discipline to believe that we can’t make ourselves good enough, that we cannot become good enough, if we continue to strive or if we just try to live so cautiously as to not, somehow, make a mistake.
Martin Luther is famously quoted as saying, “Love God and sin boldly.” He wasn’t actually encouraging people to find ways to stick it to God. He meant that we should embrace our status as people who are loved and accepted by God and to live freely. If there are consequences, then we can deal with consequences as they arise.