The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson(Book review)

 

Ah shame, what a tough subject to discuss as it is tough to deal with it! Ever since the Fall, humanity has been marred by shame. It is a shadow that never ceases to follow you around and consume you. Not only does it distort your well-being but how you live life as well. You always feel like you are damaged goods, never good enough, and just never measuring up. God is seen a mean entity who cannot ever bear to look at you because you find yourself so sinful. That is merely a snapshot of how shame affects us. That is what Curt Thompson attempts to get at in this book and he does it well.

Shame is described and defined as you would expect. But one thing that Thomspson takes into account is the neurological effect on shame as a he is a psychiatrist with a neurological background. Thus adding an further in depth analysis on shame impact. For instance, shame affects our brain. The more we act out in shame, the more it is reinforced in our brain leading to a stasis in us. Moreover, shame distorts our walk with God, looking all the way back to the Fall and plenty of stories shared from people with shameful experiences. The remedy? vulnerability. First, seeing it in God who made Himself vulnerable in creating us to share in this world and also through Christ coming to die for our sins so that we would be reconciled to God the Father. As we live between now and the final consummation, the church must likewise grow in vulnerability with one another as it practices the same love and grace God bestows on us. Although shame is a life-long struggle, thankfully it will be forever gone in heaven as we will live on shameless, living fully in the very glory of God. So do yourself a favor and please check out this book. It will minister to you. It is always refreshing to see books that observe what is usually seen as psychological issues yet comes from a Christian foundation. Honestly, it is something we need more of.

 

Highlights

“When shame appears, especially in malignant forms, we are often driven to a felt sense of stasis. Our mind feels incapable of thinking. We may feel literally physically frozen in place when experiencing extreme humiliation, and if we are able to move, we feel like going somewhere we can hide and remain hidden without returning to engage others. We don’t necessarily experience this with minor insults, but there is no question that our ability to move creatively in our mind is slowed. This general idea that shame leads the world ultimately to a point of paralysis, vis-à-vis the movement that is required for creative engagement, will become more important when we explore the nature of God’s movement and its necessity for shame’s healing.”

“Attention is the engine of the mind’s train that pulls along the rest of the functional cars. Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at any time are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention. What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life.”

“Remember, attention is the key to the engine that pulls the train of our mind; shame’s first priority is distraction.”

“Judgment strengthens shame’s grinding attempt at isolation. In order for me to judge someone, I must create enough distance between us in order to analyze him or her. With that judgment the distance grows. And with enough distance comes isolation.”

Book Review: How To Break A Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer

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Are you sick and tired of that stubborn habit in your life? Better yet, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of that stubborn habit in your life? If you’re reading this, then it is most likely a resounding YES! How much worse is it as a Christian who just can’t get victory? Trust me, I know it all to well. From the slip ups, confession and repentance before God, only to fall again shortly. Furthermore, you have guilt trips to no end. That being said, I just finished this book and I find myself greatly encouraged after reading it. So I just wanted to share my thoughts.

Erwin Lutzer addresses the ongoing frustrations that Christians face from besetting sins. Perhaps you’ve asked, “God, why haven’t you delivered me from this? ” a billion times and counting. Especially that God is omnipotent who can change it all in a heartbeat yet He doesn’t. On the flip side, it could be God’s way of helping us grow our faith in the midst of trial. But we are accountable in making that step of faith in those trails.

He goes on and lays out 3 ground rules that we must consider: 1) believe in God’s goodness, 2) accept personal responsibility, and 3) believe that deliverance is possible. I find this helpful as we’ve done the opposite. Sometimes it’s despairing, believing nothing will ever change and that God doesn’t love you anymore. But that’s what the enemy wants us to believe in living defeated lives yet what we fail to realize is that our enemy is a defeated enemy! Therefore, we must grab hold of these ground rules.

The rest of the book is filled with more steps one can take such as renewing one’s mind with the Word of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, living in light of the cross, handling guilt and feelings, accountability, and so forth. Now I’m sure you’ve heard that countless times but believe me, this is more than just imperatives. Each one is elaborated with practical points, backed up with Scripture. Each chapter ends with an action step and personal/group reflection questions.

What stuck out to me the most is the last chapter, which addresses how we tend to relapse after making significant progress. As much as relapses are inevitable, what must be gleaned from this is to stay humble before God daily, whether you’re struggling or not. Don’t think for a second that you should seek God any less on a “good” day. After all, “pride comes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). At the end of the day, it is not about perfection (as we will fall short in this lifetime) but progress in sanctification as we need the Holy Spirit to empower us in walking before God.

On that note, it is best to revisit this book regularly and see how you are making progress in light of its practical points. Lutzer also includes an outline to journal your progress. If possible, read along with a small group or a friend. Trust me, I know how easy it is to keep one’s sins hidden in the dark, thinking that no one else is struggling like you are. You’d be surprised as to how many people you know are in the same boat. All one has to do is speak up and see that we’re all struggling. But we can fight together. Amen.

In closing, please consider this point Lutzer makes,

“realize that your ultimate goal is not victory, but relationship with God Himself.”

At the end of the day, God knows our sins and how it can be a never ending battle. But always remember, the war has been won in Christ! He reconciled you in right relationship to God. That’s what the Gospel is all about! More than behavior modification or staying out of trouble, but a relationship with God that He initiated when we wanted nothing to with Him. Now, take heed! Christ is with you every step of the way!

Overall, an excellent book that is worth the read.

Notable quotes

“Stubborn habits begin innocently enough, but because we don’t master them, they quickly master us. We all experience the cycle: enjoy a forbidden pleasure, feel guilty, determine never to do it again, take pride in brief moments of self-control, then fail once more. Each time we repeat the pattern the ruts are cut a bit deeper, the chain is pulled a bit tighter.”

“Temptation is God’s magnifying glass; it shows us how much work He has left to do in our lives.”

“Why is it so essential for you to believe that victory over your sin is possible? Because no one can win a war he or she believes can’t be won! To go to battle believing in advance that there can be no permanent victory is to succumb to the enemy before the campaign even gets under way.”