A Distorting Mirror – Shame and the Proclamation of the Gospel

Historically, the western Church has emphasised sinfulness – with its accompanying feelings of guilt and shame – as a means of inspiring a desire for holiness and as a prelude to preaching a gospel of forgiveness. Many of the saints of the Church had a deep sense of their own worthlessness and shame; the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer requires us sinners to confess that we are “miserable offenders” and “there is no health in us”; we are encouraged to perceive ourselves, like the Psalmist, “as a worm and not human” (Ps.22:6). It is only when we recognise ourselves as worthless and sinful creatures, it has been declared, does God give us his salvation, and offer, in his love and generosity, to forgive us.