I don’t know when exactly I began to expend so much energy thinking about shame. About its root causes, its origins in my life. It’s not like I spend all that much time feeling ashamed, really. But when it does surface, it likes to hog the spotlight. It takes over the show, pushing my dignity to the sidelines…and I am its audience, captivated.
In any case, I’ve felt a real burden lately to go deeper with my shame. I want to understand it thoroughly, to wrench it away from the myths and fears that feed the hungry beast. So I started my shame journey by going back to where I believe it all started.
And I mean way back.
I’m pretty sure most people have heard of a guy named Adam, a chic named Eve, and a certain bad apple that came between them and life in paradise. (Stay with me…I promise I’m going somewhere with this.) If you’re like me, you probably heard that the story went something like this…
Adam and Eve pretty much had it made. They got to spend all their time hanging out with God in the garden of Eden. Oh yeah, and all of creation was theirs do whatever they pleased with. Except for one stupid tree. And one crafty serpent, who deceived them into taking a bite of the only stinkin’ fruit they weren’t allowed to touch. And as a result…they lost it all. And we all had to pay because of it.
Thanks, Adam and Eve. Thanks a lot.
I don’t know about you, but this story was always pretty black-and-white to me. I mean sure, the punishment felt a bit harsh, and Adam and Eve both seemed a little thick…but the message was pretty obvious. Obey God, don’t sin…that sort of thing. I guess it’s because I always took this story for granted that I never gave it much thought when I read through Genesis. Until one day, a couple years ago, when I looked a little closer. And what I found surprised me.
Here’s what it says in Genesis 3:6-7 (New Living Translation): “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened…”
Here it comes. Get ready.
“…and they suddenly felt shame…”
Oh, of course they did. Why wouldn’t they? They just did the one thing God specifically asked them not to do. So it makes sense, right, that they would feel shame…
“…at their nakedness.”
Wait, hold on. That’s not right. They should be ashamed of their sin, don’t you think? The whole eating-the-forbidden-fruit-and-breaking-the-one-damn-rule-they-had-to-keep thing?
But they weren’t. You can read the rest of Genesis 3 and see for yourself–Adam and Eve never actually show any sense of grief over sinning against God. Instead, they spend their time making clothes out of fig leaves (right, like that’s really going to cover up your unmentionables), hiding from God (also rather pointless), then blaming someone else for their screw up. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t feel shame about what happened. They felt shame about their nakedness, and only their nakedness.
Why? They were the only two humans on earth, and they were married, after all. It’s almost as if their nakedness was the thing they couldn’t get over, or didn’t want to get over, because it so conveniently masked the real issue. It’s almost as if sin wasn’t the only thing that Adam and Eve ushered in as an inheritance for all humanity…
It’s as if misplaced shame entered the world that day, too.
Now, I’m no Biblical scholar or theologian. Not even close. And I recognize, too, that not everyone who reads this will think of this story as anything more than a children’s fable. That’s okay, though, because whatever your stance is on this tale, I think there might just be something about the issue of misplaced shame that all of us need to hear.
It’s certainly had me re-examining my tendency to feel shame, in any case. More on that later…
(Sidenote–if you’re ever looking for an image to add to your post about Adam and Eve, do not, under any circumstances, search “forbidden fruit” in Google Images. Don’t do it. Some things cannot be unseen.)