Freedom Friday: Are You Being Honest?

We have a serious problem in the church today.

We lie to each other.

We lie every time that we feel deeply broken and in pain, and yet we say we’re fine.

We lie every time we skip church because we don’t want to face the question, “How are you?”

We lie every time someone opens up about a struggle and, because of pride and fear, we pat them on the back, saying, “I’ll pray for you, friend!” rather than sharing how we’ve faced a similar struggle.

We lie to each other.

In Russell Willingham’s amazing book, Relational Masks, he addresses the core beliefs that make us feel as if we must put on our smiles and act as if everything is OK.

One major core belief is this: If I am honest, I will be abandoned. 

Shame runs deep. It began in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve tried to cover up the truth for their all-knowing Creator. If Adam and Eve struggled with honesty in their relationship with God, how much more so do we need to fight against this tendency in our lives.

Russell Willingham stated this in a teaching I once heard: we demonstrate the above core belief by always putting our best foot forward and never letting anyone see our weaknesses. We have this secret fear that if we’re honest about how deep the brokenness goes, we’ll be thrown out on our ears.

A lot of these core beliefs are based on experiences we’ve actually lived through. Some of our families would shut down our honesty. We’ve shared our struggles and experienced rejection. Thus, we don’t risk with people. We’re always respectable. We act like we have it all together.

Paul address in the church in Ephesus. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). You can read the context of the passage here. Paul was giving the believers instructions on new ways of living and interacting.

Paul was basically telling Christians to stop lying to each other. 

Because that’s our tendency. Our tendency, since the Garden, is to hide. Hide our sin, hide our brokenness, hide our shame. Act as if we’ve got it all together and we don’t need help.

Russell Willingham states that we need a commitment to truth-telling in our lives.

What have you gained, spiritually, by being dishonest?

With God?
With your friends?
With those around you who can help you?

Why do we put on our smiling faces and go to church when we are totally broken inside? Or worse yet, skip church all together during those tough weeks?

I know from my own life and years of ministry, we have a desperate need to be seen. That is the imprint of God within our hearts. He did not create us for isolation. He created us for love, acceptance and support in the safety of authentic, healthy community. He deposited in us a need for affirmation, for honesty, for the freedom that is found when we bring our struggles to the light.

Here’s the thing: not everyone can handle honesty. And not everyone has earned a place of trust in our lives that we should tell them our struggles. Remember Jesus’ example of 3 intimate friends and 9 other good friends. So you may have to go to a number of people before you find a safe place to share your heart. But it’s worth the risk. You were created for relationship. God designed freedom, healing and growth to happen in the context of community.

Will you take a risk today? Would you risk being honest, and, in the process, risk finding the freedom you long for?

Monday Morning Meditation: Dealing with Shame (Psalm 25 Series)

Several long weeks ago, I began a series on Psalm 25, my psalm for the year. We looked at just the first verse and a half (1-2a):

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.

Today we’ll look at the next verse and a half (2b-3):

Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.

To assist me with my seminary graduate work, I recently purchased a Bible software package. Having just completed my first Old Testament exegesis project (do you have any questions about Nehemiah? I may just have answers!), my favorite part was having the software read the Hebrew to me.*

But I digress 🙂 Let’s put ourselves in the psalmist’s shoes for a minute (in this case, King David).

Have you ever felt ashamed?

Shame is a common human emotion. It began with Adam and Eve, after their eyes were opened to good and evil. Prior to that, they felt no shame (Genesis 2:25).

Can you even imagine what that felt like?

Shame is partially taught and partially inborn. There is such a thing as “healthy shame.” If we sin, and we think, “That was not a good choice,” or “I did something wrong,” that is healthy shame. If we sin, and think, “I am bad to my core,” or “I am a mistake,” that is not healthy shame.

Distinguishing between the two is a challenge. In fact, when I typed “dealing with shame” into, 467 resources came up.

How did David deal with his shame and fear of it?

He chose to take it to God and put his hope there.

Hope is a choice. It can be a difficult and even counter-cultural choice in a world that relies so much on what we see and feel and touch. Hope is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” according to Hebrews 6:19. But the Tyndale Commentary on this section of Hebrews rightly states that it requires tenacity, a tight hold on God and His Word, to retain that hope; it will not simply come to us or happen by chance.

What is our solution to shame today? Either healthy or unhealthy shame?  Hope in the Lord. Find your worth there. Allow your identity to be defined by the cross and not by the reactions of others.

Choose to put your hope in God first.

*I don’t know a single thing about Hebrew, but even I can learn and discover interesting aspects of the text through simply hearing a robotic voice read it to me. In fact, during this exercise, I spent way too much time playing with that feature.

I’ll just give you an example of the structure of verse 3. The word that is translated “put to shame” is in the middle of the Hebrew and is repeated. So the structure of the sentence looks something like this:
These people = no shame; shame = these people.

Repetition is a commonly used literary device in the original languages, but some of that can be lost in translation. The English here actually does a fairly good job of capturing that.