“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.

By Joel Hempel, pastor, clinical pastoral educator, pastoral counselor

The shame of it all

Did you ever do something you or others would consider dumb, professionally?

Too often I feel like I specialize in it.

Recently, I wrote an email and, three minutes after I sent it, I thought, “Why did you do that? It didn’t make sense.”

I didn’t intend to write something “dumb,” of course.

We are people full of mistakes. If I am not careful to think through and double-check my words, I can write something I later regret.

Other times I just miss something. Sometimes I forget something that needs to be remembered, I am not responsive and caring, or I let unkind words come out of my mouth.

In this instance, I brought a mistake to my administrative assistant’s attention that was actually my own mistake. She was thankfully gracious. Most people are.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, through its Office of National Mission, is addressing worker wellness and discussing the impact of shame on the lives of those in ministry.

Shame is a powerful and debilitating feeling. My online dictionary defines shame using words like “painful, humiliation and distress,” often associated with our or others’ judgment on our behavior.

Shame is far more than a feeling. It is a crippling assumption about ourselves.

If I let myself, I can take a nosedive into anxiety and depression — not just because I made a mistake or said something unkind — but because the flesh that fights against the Christ-generated spirit within me declares loudly, “Stupid! How can you keep doing such dumb things? What’s wrong with you?”

And then a few minutes later: “God!” I cry out. “I hate feeling this way about myself!” I hate that my “old self,” which has been crucified, refuses to die so often!

But I am promised in Rom. 6:1–4 that I am “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1 goes on to promise “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Your struggle may have a slightly different identity, but most of you are very familiar with shame.

You know shame can make you say horrible things to yourself, and it can lead you to do something foolish — like regrettable choices or words said in anxiety or frustration.

God does help us. God provides help for us. We can ask for it and expect to receive it. Don’t let shame have its way with you.

Our Lord’s grace is sufficient to lead us and heal our shame. Be assured by the words of 1 John 3:20:

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

Lord, help me to recognize when shame is keeping me from reaching out and getting help. Give me the courage and strength to do that which I know will grant the healing only You can give. Amen.

“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” devotions and prayers will be released Monday mornings on the LCMS Facebook and Twitter pages. Church Worker Wellness devotions will also be archived online.

LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to workerwellness@lcms.org.