Scars of Shame

by Joanna Deffner on February 12, 2020

Shame. The weight of it is crippling. The pain of it is excruciating. The longevity of it is unceasing. The scars of it are humiliating.

We all bear it—in one form or another—for something we’ve done, something that’s been done to us, or something we’ve witnessed. We wear shame, not like a badge of honor, but try desperately to hide it under the recesses of our clothing, minds, and spirits. Shame is created when we dehumanize ourselves for making a mistake. We become torn; broken. At the end of the experience are left with a scar serving as a permanent reminder we’ve failed.

There is hope for those who suffer from shame. We serve a God who has promised to forgive us for our sins, wash us white as snow, and to move on and upwards beyond our shortcomings. He provides a healing salve for our scars to help remove them from our hearts.

This is God’s plan and will for our lives, but it’s not always this simple. Why? Because our enemy and other people get in the way. Sometimes our worst scars of shame are conceived or perceived by people.

In Scripture, we read about a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1–11). We know nothing of the details surrounding her discovery: the explicit details of her sin, let alone the thoughts rushing through her mind in the moments pre- and post-event. For all we know, painful remorse and regret could have settled in her spirit. Ripped from secrecy, forced to bear all in front of peers and loved ones, she was branded with shame and presented to Jesus.

Jesus rerouted her accusers, evaluated her repentant state, and provided instruction to go and sin no more (John 8:11). This is how the story reads; this is what we’re taught. However, we aren’t given insight into the aftermath of her shame.

I’m taking a bit of creative license here, but I wonder if the woman didn’t live a life free from condemnation of others. In a perfect world, she would have, hands down. But, I know people hurt people. People shame people. People don’t let others forget about their mistakes. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it. It’s not God’s perfect plan, but it happens.

Albeit unintentionally, people don’t allow God to heal scars of shame in an individual. We keep wounds fresh and open; we keep people hiding and hurting. People struggle with letting go even though God already forgave the moment repentance was a thought in the mind of the sinner.

The church is designed to love and support people—encompassing the new sinner all the way to the seasoned sinner (yes, this is a thing. No one’s perfect). We will all make mistakes until the day the Lord calls us home. But, until then, we need encouragement to move past our old scars of shame.

Thankfully, God has a promise for scars of shame in Zephaniah 3:19:

Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame (KJV).

If you have scars of shame, there is hope for you in God. He will heal and forgive you immediately and shape you fresh and anew. For the rest of us who have witnessed a person dealing with scars of shame, let’s pray for, encourage, love, and forgive them. Let’s help them forget and move past their scars.

Lord, let us be a vehicle for Your use to help fulfill Your promise of restoration. Let us remember that scars of shame have no place here.