Q and A

What are your thoughts on Shame?

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I appreciate the way the Blood of Christ and God’s Spirit free us from shame. No doubt, I, for one, am grateful for the forgiveness of sin and the opportunity to have a clear conscience.

I know a lot about shame. I spent four years dominated by shame. Then I realized that Christ was not shocked at my sins, that he had forgiven me for them, and that he had positive plans for my future. Key people in my life decided to forgive me. So for me to allow shame to lord over my life was a denial of my faith and a repudiation of those who had confidence in Christ’s resurrection power in me. What followed that realization was an interesting process to watch. There were those who had publicly fueled and promoted my demise, actually wanting shame to control me, who did all they could to promote shame in my life. Others, though, promoted resurrection in me and did what they could to encourage healing and restoration in my life. It seemed to me as though some proved to be enemies of the Gospel’s work in me, and others proved to be friends and true believers of the Gospel’s power to work in me. This dynamic altered the way I respond to someone else’s sin: I want always to be the guy who encourages resurrection in others.

As I went through this process of deciding who would have a determining voice in my life, I decided that Jesus’ life was more powerful than my shame, and that those who said what Christ says should have influence over me, not those who wanted only to accuse and take advantage of me. It was a glorious process as the influence of Christ and authentic believers set me free to pursue God’s plan for my life.

The New Testament talks about the dynamic shame plays in all of our lives. In I Corinthians 1:27 Paul writes, ” . . . God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” Paul uses the word “shame” twice in this verse, both times talking about the embarrassment and humiliation that will come to those who are impressed with themselves.

In the fourth chapter, Paul turns his warnings about pretension directly at the Corinthians. In verses 8-13, where he mocks the arrogance of the Corinthians, he concludes his sarcastic rebuke by saying, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children” (verse 14). He doesn’t want to shame them, but he is warning them about looming dishonor if they do not reflect on his admonitions.

In Ephesians 5:12, Paul encourages the church at Ephesus to avoid bringing shame on themselves by talking about what ungodly people do. He said, “It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.” Here, Paul is encouraging the church to constrain it’s own speech in order to be honorable.

I think this is exactly where we are in the American church. We have transitioned from being the body of gratefully redeemed believers encouraging honor and life in Christ, into being the self-righteous group that scrutinizes, criticizes, whines and complains about “those sinners.”

I am convinced that under the guise of hating sin, some have inadvertently switched from being ministers of reconciliation and hope in Christ to being advocates of holding people accountable for their sin. I know it sounds good, but that might leave us as enemies of the Gospel in others and leave us positioned in Satan’s role . . . accusing the brethren.

We must be careful not to become the enemies of Christ’s work in the lives of others, because he does know how to shame his enemies. Chapters 10-18 of Luke include significant warnings for “religious leaders,” “teachers,” and “Pharisees” (those who use the Scriptures to condemn others), all of which provide ample warning to modern leadership. In the midst of his text, Luke notes, “This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did” (Luke 13:17). Here, we have Jesus intentionally shaming the religious leaders, teachers of the Scriptures and the Pharisees, while the common followers were able to see it and rejoice in him.

Christ had the courage to give his life for us, identifying with us as sinners and taking on our shame. He doesn’t impose shame on repentant sinners, only the self-righteous. When describing himself in Luke 18:32, he said, “He (Jesus) will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon.”

He demonstrated Courageous Grace (my wife’s latest book title). Jesus had the courage to identify with us, while we were yet sinners, even though he had full assurance that we would not be 100% free from sin until we see him face to face. I don’t say this to excuse sin, only to explain our role in being Christ-like and relieving shame from those who are in Christ. Probably the strongest identifying markers of an authentic follower of Christ is a willingness to be identified with the sinner and invest in healing and restoration. This identification is contrary to the false Christian leaders of our day who distance themselves from sinners and use the Scriptures to impose shame, actually using the appearance of their own moral superiority to gain power and influence. In doing so, they are denying the Gospel and instead promoting an appearance of godliness that woefully lacks the power of God.

By tedhaggardblog

Ted Haggard is the Sr. Pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, CO and founding pastor of New Life Church and past president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He is the husband of Gayle, and the father of Christy, Marcus, Jonathan, Alex and Elliott.

41 replies on “What are your thoughts on Shame?”

Good teaching pastor Ted. I love how you have “chosen” to allow God to work His grace in your life. And yes, contrary to some, especially in my classical Pentecostal roots, “shame” is still not a gift of the Holy Spirit!!!

Love you Pastor Ted,

Avery Finger

Yep.. ‘Christianity’ needs an overhaul. Less talking, more sacrificing and forgiving.. As long as we ‘devour’ one another we have nothing to offer a lost world. Lip service means nothing If we are not willing to die to our own selfishness.

I have seen in my own life how shame has tried to keep me from becoming all God wants me to be. Shame keeps us from moving forward with God, even though Paul tells us we need to press on in Christ… . Shame keeps us from receiving needed healing and restoration, and is an enemy once we are walking in repentance.

I fully agree that the church has too often been transformed from being an announcer of the good news of redemption into the enforcer of certain standards. We should have learned that lesson with Paul and John Mark or even more clearly with the man in 1 Corinthians 5 and then mentioned again in 2 Corinthians 2. Good word, Brother.

Hi Ted,

I don’t feel anyone has the right to place shame on anyone, I was upset when I read of your fall but realized we are not all that much different, I too have battled with sexual sin, male/male every since 13, and now just with desires 73. I feel they won’t be gone until I am gone, as a born again follower in the E. Free church I feel my sins are forgiven and always will be as long as it’s only desire I battle with, and only Jesus and my wife of 43 years to answer to.

I sense that you are now helping other men who have traveled down the same road as we have or are.

Ted keep up the good work you have started at St. James,


Pastor Ted, greetings from Delaware. I mark my new birth and authentic Christianity experience with New Life Church … you led me to the Lord during a church service along with many others. I raised my hand that day only to impress the guy next to me. He’d brought me to church and I wanted our relationship to expand into something more serious. Despite my ulterior motive, the Lord took my raised hand seriously! You later counseled me about keeping my relationship with this guy pure, and your words spoke such truth to me and changed my life, and my relationship with my SELF. I moved to Texas, and then to Delaware, where I started my family and my business. Later, when things fell apart at New Life, I knew God was preparing your path for something great because your gifts would continue to make room for you. I wrote a letter of encouragement to you at the time, but my pastor discouraged my sending it and I’m ashamed to say I followed his counsel. I left that church several years ago, I picked up Gayle’s book in a doctor’s office while waiting for an appointment recently, and ordered it immediately when I got home, connecting to your website when i finished it. You, I, and others like us are being called to surface at this time … I remain so grateful for your impact on my life. As I find my way back to the true Church, your words continue to lead the way. With gratitude, Sher

Who are we to judge? We are all sinners & fall short of the glory of God. Let us not forget judgment day .The ‘righteous’ will then taste the shame…enough is enough, where is the mercy? Where is the love?

In 2004 my wife and I went to New Life Church because even here in New Zealand, we had heard of the great moves that God was doing in Colorado Springs. We loved our experience.When we heard about later events, our hearts broke. We couldn’t understand it for a while. When Gayle’s book came out we read it avariciously. We thank her for it and we praise God for what He is doing now in your lives. I heard a quote the other day. God is the only one who can humble us without bringing shame. I love that! As a Senior Minister, a young man confessed to me his addiction to pornography the other day. After we had brought it before God, he said that the weight had lifted and he felt more free than ever before. I love being a part (in a very small way) in seeing God set us free, removing any shame we have felt, but also using it in His way to bring wholeness. My wife and I would like to encourage you Ted. May God continue to bless you and your family and be a blessing through you for His Kingdom’s sake.

God bless you Ted. You refer to your forgiveness as a “resurrection” and I think that’s neat, much like another new beginning (when it’s really just a blood-washed son of God stepping back into the track he stepped out of. I am 71 years old. I don’t preach much anymore (singing & preaching evangelism), but I am always in the Word, studying and writing (I don’t know why – I just feel compelled to do so). I just wanted to express my identification with you (and all stumbling and falling and reinstated ministers everywhere.

Forgive me for personalizing this verse, but it is indeed mine! WHERE MY SIN DID ABOUND THERE DID HIS GRACE MORE ABOUND ! ! !

Redemption – Reconciliation – Restoration. All and forever ours in Christ.

Pastor Ted, I just got done reading your most recent blog post…ABSOLUTELY love it. Totally agree with you…we MUST be careful not to be judging others as if “WE” are some great Christian and everyone else is a worthless sinner…without Jesus and what He did for us we are ALL worthless sinners. He is the Key Factor NOT us…without Him we can do nothing…I liked your blog post so much that I posted it on my Facebook page (giving you the credit as the author of course). Here is the link if you want to check it out:

The Lord bless & keep you always,
Gregg Huestis

All I know, as a counselor, is that you can’t shame someone out of a pit and expect them to stay out. Only the love of Christ can lasso and rescue that person giving them reason to work on staying out.

Heyyyyyyyy, Jesus was like that wasnt He? Oops. I missed that big time for 40 years. Well, I’ve got 40 more years to do it better.
Man!…..who’d have thought? Being identified WITH the sinner….that Jesus guy thought of everything. What a way to be. What an example! Thanks bro

Try doing it better through love. Isn’t there a special person in your life who has loved you unconditionally (besides Jesus) that deserves to feel that?

Thank you ~ I want to be one of those who identifies with the down trodden and help them back up. At some point in our lives, surely all of us will experience shame and need the help of the true church to restore us. Your message is clear and well taken Ted.

You and Gayle are blessings in our lives. Proven that through anything that the Lord is really working hard to build and protect his army. We know that even when there is a threat to our family life and community it is conquerable as long as we continue to have faith and to support each other through prayer, compassion and love.

When I see pastors and self-righteous “Christians” still trying to tear you down it make me sad. I was at a church where there was nothing but shame delivered on a regular basis. The Body of Christ is the only army that kills their own wounded. “Friendly fire”. We all sin and your sin was no worse than others. The Lord will use your experience to reach others who are struggling with shame. Good for you! Your story was a blessing to me.

Thank You, Ted!! It was your life example which changed my life forever and made me stop judging people and begin to define them in the light of what Christ did for them – Thank you and Gayle for holding on to the message of courageous grace!

Thank You, Ted! It was your life example which changed my life forever and made me stop judging people and begin to define them and myself in the light of what Christ did for them – Thank you and Gayle for holding on to the message of courageous grace!!

There is Jesus to follow. What would Jesus say? Shame has a role in my life, it’s another personal spiritual guardian, kind of a warning sign
I thank you Ted for having the reason to understand Jesus wants you back

I think shame is just a way of our conscience reminding us that we did something wrong, without it, life would go on; without another thought of that bad thing we did (or thought) so I don’t think it is a bad thing, its like moms your voice in your head; to keep you on the straight and narrow, what you do with it is your decision.

Ted when we, my wife and I, first came to Colorado Springs we were directed to New Life and became avid lovers of the church and you and Gayle in particular. My wife and I are struggling with a separation now due to sexual sin in my own life for several years now. My spouse is my best friend and still loves me unconditionally but also enough to not allow me to stay in my sinful nature. TY so very much for your testimony. It has given me the strength to confess me sin publicly and accept God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy, How many times so we Christians think Jesus is going to die for us? ONCE!! For all sins past, present and future. God help all us “Christians” to rest in the finished work of the cross as you are. Love you Pastor Ted!

Ted, you have presented two kinds of Christians. The first group you see as enemies of the gospel in you, for they have shamed you and fueled and promoted your demise. Under the guise of hating sin, they are self-righteous, they scrutinize and hold people accountable, are enemies of Christ’s work. They display moral superiority and give an appearance of godliness, but lack the power. The second group loves you, forgave you and you call them friends of the gospel in you because they see Christ’s resurrection power in you. Assuming Paul would be in this group, he thought nothing of shaming the wise and strong but didn’t want us to shame other Christians. He believes in reconciliation, investing in healing and restoration. Everybody here on your blog is defending you. So far so good. But everybody who listens to Paul believes we cannot be 100% free of sin now. We are in the end time, what if you people come to the place where more preachers go astray than don’t? Are you going to defend them all? And when church members start following their example, what about then? Jesus died for all sins past, present and future, you say – this is not a plan to sin, just a contingency. Uh huh.
Jesus finished his work, but you’re not finished. There is another way – Jesus’ way. Don’t settle for half of the gospel. “You must be born again.” This is not salvation. This is becoming another person. This is you in Jesus, and Jesus in you. You have heard that before, but not like this. You can be free of sin now. You must be free of sin to enter heaven. Jesus says to those in him, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.” The gospel is nothing else – no one else – but Jesus.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments Carol. I hear you, and I think we are saying the same thing. The telling line to me in your note is when you write, “. . . what if you people come to the place where more preachers go astray than don’t? Are you going to defend them all . . . ” You reveal a misunderstanding of the realities of our day and the New Testament solution. According to recent studies, 60% of the vocational pastors regularly watch pornography, 1,500 leave the ministry a month, of those 750 never return to any church to attend or worship in any way. Many pastors, para-church leaders, and Christian authors often become millionaires touting a love for God’s Kingdom, concern for the poor, and publicly boast about their personal giving, but their incomes and lifestyles don’t communicate authenticity in these platitudes. Thus, most of the religious leaders of our day have gone astray. So that begs the question: what is the New Testament solution to their (our, mankind’s) sin problem? Obviously it’s repentance and internal transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. That leads us to the question: what is our role with one another to facilitate repentance, etc. resulting in genuinely being transformed and sanctified? Obviously, Old Testament methods didn’t work (according to the New Testament), so the New Testament provides those answers. Thus my blog.

You might be interested to watch my sermon from last Sunday (August 25, 2013). It communicates that ONLY Christ is the answer, as you do in your note. But even though all Christians would SAY they believe only Christ is the answer, what is the test to reveals whether that belief is authentic? I think our core belief about this is revealed in our response to someone else’s sin. If we actually believe the New Testament, our response will be healing, redemptive, restorative, etc. If we, though we SAY we are New Testament believers, don’t really believe, then our response will be oriented toward Old Testament solutions; humiliation, punishment, and shame.

Last week’s talk is posted at under the media link. I was preaching from I Peter 3:13-17, which is a text that reinforces your point. Blessings!

Ted, you continue to be the best example of the love of God. You were my pastor for 25 years at New Life Church and I miss those times. I have moved to Farmington, NM and there is not a person who comes close to your example — both the good times and the really tough times. I am so glad that you didn’t allow shame to take over and change your relationship with Christ. He loves you and all of us so unconditionally that sometimes it is hard to fathom and feel that release from our difficult times. The church really needs pastors like you!!! Love you and Gayle, Lynn Scott

Thank you for your response to my note, Ted. If we were saying the same thing I wouldn’t have bothered you. We are NOT saying the same thing. The statistics you gave on pastors prove what I said. ‘Christ’ has been the answer for 1700 years; it’s time for another answer as well as another question. I watched your sermon and it was well thought-out. Putting the right thing ahead of a family member is a principle of Jesus (Luke 18:29,30). This was illustrated in your story of the surgeon operating on the President. But in your response to me you are pitting the New Testament against the Old. The same God of one is the God of the other, and Jesus, the living Word of God, came as a Jew. There was no greater shame perpetrated than on Jesus, the Son of God. The Christ of Paul was a Greek title. How did this Greek title come to have a separate agenda from Jesus, take on a life of its own, attach itself to the name of Jesus and replace him? Salvation came through the Jews. Healing and redemption that you sought yourself and have come to appreciate came through Jesus. Compassion for the sinner and the downtrodden comes through knowing Jesus. He simply said, Follow me. It would be a shame after all you went through for you to emerge on the other side still serving two masters.

Carol, If I understand you correctly you are saying that Christ and Jesus are not the same and thus part of the bible is not applicable? ie all of the writings of God through Paul. Interesting. I have to assume then that you are not a Christian. Carol, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God, sent to earth as a human, died for our sins and was raised on the third day in victory over death that we can have that same victory? I hope so.

I don’t see anything in Ted’s reply to you pitting the Old Testament against the New Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament. He did. He said it was finished. Then we were offered a new covenant, through the blood of Jesus. If we confess our sins, He forgives us. You accuse Ted of pitting old against new and then you promptly pit new against new.

If I know Ted, you are not bothering him. Obviously, you guys are not saying the same thing.
My name is Jeff. Sometimes my kids call me Dad. Do you believe Jesus is the messiah? I’ll bet messiah is pronounced differently in different languages. Say maybe Greek? The very first verse of the New Testament refers to JESUS CHRIST, at least in the KJV and many other translations. Makes me wonder how the two names got linked together as well.

I hope your point is not that only Jews are salvageable. Yet, several times you mentioned the word Jew which causes me to pause and wonder if this is what you are saying. Carol, Jesus said we would know a tree by the kind of fruit it bore. I can assure you there will be many people in heaven that would not have been there otherwise if it were not for the fruit Ted’s tree is bearing every single day. I have no doubt he serves one master; but I wouldn’t want to get hung up on a name because I think I remember the Old Testament having several of them. And yet he is tempted to sin, like Jesus, you and me.

Carol, Are you a believer? I hope to meet you in heaven where we can finish this interesting discussion. In the meantime, look to the Holy Spirit for understanding of the scriptures, as I will be doing.

i need prayers shame is stil holding me back from fully participating in thngz of God.I TRULY NID THE GRACE TO BE FREE,ND AT TIMES IT HURTS ME.

I like it. You have always been a person who thinks well and honestly toward your subjects. Your writing and thinking are a gift. Thanks

Love this! Each and everyone of us have lived with Shame, and have Sinned! Thank God we can repent, God Forgives! Love you Pastor Ted!

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