Shame can come from several sources. Sometimes, it’s forced upon us by people who made choices over which we had no control. It’s possible that someone in your life did something or said something that declared shame over you, and that’s not your fault. God is just and righteous and he’ll take care of it.
And sometimes we carry shame because of our own sinful choices, some of which might have even been unhealthy responses to the sins of others. When I respond to shame by shutting people out our hurting others, I’m responsible for that, along with any other willful, intentional sins I’ve committed in my life.
Sin always leads to shame. And repentance always leads to forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration.
You might have grown up in a church or religious culture in which the word “repent” was used as a battering ram, furthering the shame. God’s intention for the word is far more positive. He has your redemption and restoration in mind rather than your destruction.
A lot of people believe that repentance is merely confession, and while it includes confession and taking ownership and responsibility for sin, you can confess things without repenting of them.
Other people believe that repentance is all about feeling really sorry. And again, while repentance includes feeling the weight of your choices, you can be very sorry without repenting (just think of Judas).
Still others believe that repentance is simply a change in behaviors or habits. Repentance definitely means change, but you can change your habits and not repent.
I define repentance this way: To repent is to acknowledge sin, feel the weight of it, and to turn away from it in a posture of humility toward God.
King David spoke of his repentance…
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
~ Psalm 32:5 NIV
Repentance is about coming clean and taking ownership of our choices and agreeing with God about the sinful nature of sin. It’s making a complete turnaround and heading in the opposite direction from the will to sin.
God gave us the gift of repentance as the mechanism whereby we come to experience his grace and forgiveness and his restoration to life and spiritual vitality.
And I believe that repentance shouldn’t have to be the result of a long build-up of unconfessed choices, but rather our continual posture before God toward anything that doesn’t belong in my life as a Christ follower.
Our very good God intends for our repentance to lead to our healing because of his limitless grace and unconditional love.