The other day, I stumbled on a blog post about the curse of ‘slut shaming’. If you don’t know, ‘Slut-shaming’ is ‘a form of social stigma applied to people who…violate accepted dress codes, or have premarital, casual or promiscuous sex…’
The hashtag #Stopslutshaming trended briefly, with lots of comments, broadly supportive to the idea that it’s wrong to ‘shame’ people for the sexual choices they make. Other hashtags (#shoutyourabortion and others) follow a similar theme – often connected by the thorny issue of ‘shame’.
Most of us know what shame feels like. It’s that ugly red-hot dagger of knowing/being reminded you did something wrong. There’s really only one cure for it; admit it, apologise and get forgiven.
Problem is, if the bad thing you did was to yourself, then how do you get forgiven? You can’t exactly issue yourself 3 Hail Marys and an edict to ‘sin no more’. Forgiveness ultimately has to come from a higher power.
But if you don’t have a higher power, then the options are limited. One solution is to turn shame on its head, discard the deep-down feelings (or issues of right and wrong) as being ‘a construct of society’ or something that ‘men make you feel’.
To be honest, talking openly about it on social media really doesn’t make it go away. I’m sure the people at Twitter would be delighted to have those kinds of absolution super-powers, but they don’t.
In the quiet moments, in the middle of the night, shame still lurks around like a filthy, unidentifiable stink.
Just to be clear, I think that no woman, no man should ever be publicly ‘shamed’ for the choices they make – even if those choices are ones which some find strange or wrong.
Jesus wasn’t in the business of shaming people. He said when something was right or wrong…but he didn’t pour public scorn on people’s heads.
His words were usually simple; ‘Don’t do it again, accept the grace I’m offering…and you’ll be able to live a life free from shame and regret.’
So, he didn’t ‘shame’ people and for those already feeling it, he came to set them free from it.
There’s only one thing that can banish shame forever, and that’s the gobsmacking, powerful knowledge of forgiveness.
Being forgiven (and knowing it) feels like a hot shower on a bone-tinglingly freezing day. It’s freedom, having the handcuffs taken off, being able to hold your head high, knowing that you’re ok, no matter what you did.
There is no thing so evil, so bad, so black that it can’t be forgiven. Getting God’s forgiveness is the only way to rid ourselves of shame. No need to publicise The Thing Wot I Did on Facebook or share a hashtag. When we know that sweet whisper of redemption, shame breathes its last raspy breath and has no power over us ever again.