Understanding Shame and Guilt | What Does the Bible Say?

We have all battled with shame and guilt at one point. Sometimes the feelings are a natural consequence of our sin, and other times they are a consequence of someone else’s sin. Unfortunately, the feelings of shame and guilt can immobilize and confine us to mental and emotional bondage. Understanding shame and guilt in a way that sets you free can only come from God’s Word.

Shame and guilt have followed humanity since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. They ate the fruit He had forbidden them and became aware of their nakedness, hiding out of shame

Realizing their wrongdoing aroused guilt in them and affected how they perceived themselves. Their shame (nakedness) became apparent, and they hid from God to cover it.

Despite their wrongdoing, something interesting happened. In Genesis 3:21, God made tunics of skin and clothed them. He covered their nakedness so they would be ashamed no more. 

God Covers Us through Jesus

The same case applies to us. Though we do things that cause us to feel shame and guilt, we can believe and trust that the blood of Jesus covers us, separating our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  

The Bible tells us we should confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and believe He has cleansed us from our guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). 

Even when someone else is responsible for bringing you shame, the scriptures urge us not to be ashamed but to glorify God instead (1 Peter 4:16). 

What Lies Come with Shame and Guilt?

As believers, we are aware of the fact that Jesus Christ bore our shame. We understand that we shouldn't allow shame and guilt to torment and ground our lives. Yet we often fall into the trap the enemy sets for us – the trap of constant feelings of regret and unworthiness whenever we err. 

Mainly, this is aggravated by the lies that come with shame and guilt. Examples of common self-deprecating lies that fill our minds include…

  • I am a bad person
  • I am not good enough
  • I'm worthless
  • I'm a fool
  • I deserve the shame

How Did Jesus Overcome Shame and Guilt

Before His crucifixion and death, Jesus went through untold suffering and shame. His disciples and followers held Him in high esteem as their master. Many Jews had recognized Him as powerful and holy because of the miracles performed and His words of authority. However, many–though not all–who followed Him before the cross deserted Him at the cross. 

He was helplessly led like a sheep to the slaughter after His arrest. The crowd mocked, beat, and spat on Him, causing a shameful scene. But Jesus bore it all–the shame and guilt–knowing it was for a divine purpose. 

He recognized the will of God in His shameful suffering. As a result, He welcomed the will of God, despite the magnitude of His pain. Shortly before the arrest, He had pleaded with the Father to take away the cup of suffering but at the same time, surrendered to His will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus understood that tables were about to turn drastically. The crowds that had revered Him would soon pity Him as He was helplessly mistreated and judged. The Jews that had constantly questioned and opposed Him would momentarily have their way. And the events that followed would plunge His followers into confusion. In anticipation of the shame that awaited Him, Jesus had prayed to God but understood what the Word said and surrendered to the process. 

In the same way, when faced with shame and guilt, we should seek God and ask Him to roll it away. Does this mean we won’t experience spiritual warfare, the enemy trying to burden us with shame and guilt? No. However, we can trust that it is God's will for us to live free of shame and guilt. 

And, as James 4:7-8 tells us, we can surrender to God, resist the lies of shame and guilt from the enemy, and he will flee. 

We can reinforce this truth by understanding shame and guilt from a biblical perspective–by getting into the Bible and discovering what God has to say about it.

Bible Verses About Shame and Guilt

Psalm 31:1

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness.”

Psalm 32:5

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” 

Psalm 103:12

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” 

Isaiah 61:7

“Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion, they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land, they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

Romans 8:1 

“There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 

Romans 10:11

“For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’” 

2 Corinthians 7:10

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 

Colossians 2:14

“…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” 

Hebrews 8:12

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 10:22

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

1 Peter 4:16

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”

1 John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

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Ways to Battle Shame and Guilt with the Word of God

The burden of shame and guilt can be so heavy that you can easily get weighed down and forget the truth. Whenever you realize you're sinking under shame and guilt, here's what you can do…

  1. Confess your wrongdoing (1 John 1:9). If the shame is due to wrongs committed to you by other people, forgive them and ask God to lift the burden from your heart and minister hope, healing, and restoration.
  2. Counter the lies with truth. Use the scriptures above. (Colossians 2:14, 1 John 1:9, 1 Peter 4:16, Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 61:7, Romans 8:1)
  3. Remember what Romans 8:1 says, “There's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes you could feel shame from imagining what other people think about you. However, it is God’s opinion of you that matters. 

In Summary: Here's What You Need to Know About Shame and Guilt 

Shame and guilt are feelings that can burden us. However, as Christians, we can trust that God has set us free from all the things that cause shame and guilt to come upon us. 

If you’ve trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, God has removed your guilt and covered your shame. Just as He covered Adam and Eve's shame by making them skin tunics, He has done the same for you by offering His Son. 

When you feel shame and guilt creeping in…

  • Confess
  • Battle with the Word
  • Remember you are free in Jesus

Do you need freedom and forgiveness from shame and guilt? Check out Re:generation, a place to start healing.