Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sin, Shame and Repentance

I majored in religious studies in college. As a part of my major, I took a class called Living Religions of the East. I wasn't looking forward to the class, as my specialization was in Judaism and Early Christian traditions, but it turned out to be my favorite class in college.

One of the topics that we discussed was the concept of shame in Asian cultures. The first thing the professor told us was that shame in Asia was traditionally viewed in a very different way than shame is viewed in the West. Shame in Asia has played a pivotal role in maintaining family respect. Shame in the United States is a very personal thing.

I found this lecture to be very interesting, partially because we discussed the apparent lack of shame in our modern Western culture. It's not always that we don't feel shame, but we shy away from expressing it, even to ourselves.

Shame can be a good thing, however. It's a way to remind ourselves that we are humans, and thus, sinners. We need God to help us break free from our sins, and shame is one of the tools He uses to remind us of this fact. Because the truth is we can't do it alone. We can't achieve greatness on our own. We can't master sin on our own. When we confess our sins to God and seek his forgiveness, we aren't just confessing the sins we have committed, we are also asking God for his help in the future, that we can overcome the temptation to sin again. That's part of the beauty of the Act of Contrition. Below are three different versions of the Act of Contrition, but include one of the same points: We need help. We can't do it on our own.

Three Versions of the Act of Contrition (emphasis mine)

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.


My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.


O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.

Prayers from

If shame leads us to repentance, and reconciliation with God, I think we should value it more. If we always feel good about everything we do, we probably aren't doing a good job of examining our lives, or striving to improve. 

Confessing isn't a path to punishment- it's a path to peace. It allows us to offer to God our shortcomings and failures in exchange for His grace and forgiveness. 

Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD," and you took away the guilt of my sin.              -Psalm 32:10

I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty good trade to me.

~Have a blessed day!

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