Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Teaching Children Shame

Right at the start, let me make sure everyone understands: my title above does not mean that I am wanting parents to shame their children. To cause someone to be ashamed, is not the same thing as teaching someone what shame is. When a parent teaches a child what wisdom is, he does not thereby make the child wise. In that same way, I am not wanting to "shame" the children, but rather I want parents to help children to know what shame is, and then help them to see its value. How many times have you heard (or said) that someone was "shameless"? We do not use the term as often as in the past (and that is revealing) but we all know what it means.

Late last week in the reading for Morning Prayer (in our form we use in the Ordinariate) we had the passage from Isaiah 3, where the prophet makes a number of points about the Israelites sinful behavior. In verse 9 we read:
Their partiality witnesses against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil upon themselves.
The prophet is here describing the fact that the Israelites had lost their sense of shame. They were "proclaiming" their sin "like Sodom". Just look back at the story of Lot in Genesis 19 and you will see what is being spoken of.

Loss of shame comes from a callous heart. When we allow ourselves to become desensitized to evil, our hearts then become calloused. Over time this leads to a growing willingness to do things that we should be ashamed of. When someone continues in this type of behavior over a longer period of time, he will eventually degenerate into a willingness to perform these "shameful" acts more and more openly--thus proving that he has lost all sense of shame.

From there, one reaches the final stage as referred to in the prophet Isaiah. Not just a lack of shame, but an actual proclaiming of one's sins as though they are a good thing, is what he speaks of. Thus we can see a picturesque example of much of modern society. Flaunting its sins as though it were bragging about something good (to brag about a good deed is evil enough, but to brag about something wicked is at the deepest level of evil). It reveals a mind that is completely corrupted with no clear foundation in what is right. People like this cannot be trusted in virtually anything. [They might tell you the right time of day, but you may want to double check it to be sure.]

Isaiah highlights this problem with similar words just a couple chapters later when he says:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
A "woe" is declared because all that people like this can hope for is a life of misery. Yes, they may claim (sometimes quite loudly) that they are happy in their life of wickedness, but down deep they hate what they have become. The thing that keeps them from repenting is their own pride; they refuse to admit that they were wrong and that Jesus was right all along.

Parents need to protect their children against these kind of things, and they need to begin doing it early in the child's life. This means that parents need to teach children that some actions are "shameful" and help them to see that a sense of shame is a godly thing. It is something that helps us to steer clear of evil actions because it is intimately associated with our conscience. A lack of discipline for a child damages his conscience to the point of where it is ineffective. How many times have you heard someone say "I can't believe he would do that; I taught him better"? A pure and holy conscience will help the child to resist the temptations that the world sends at him when he grows up and mommy and daddy are not there to help.

Many of the sins that are so rampant today have actually occurred fairly often in the past, but on the majority people were ashamed of it, and so they hid it. This means that others were not encouraged to follow in their footsteps. Leading others into sin because of the flaunting of your own sin adds even greater guilt to the sin itself because you bring others down with you. Leading a child into sin because you did not give them a conscience is of the gravest nature, and Scripture often gives the harshest warnings to those who neglect to protect children in this way. I could say it is like throwing them to the wolves, but on this blog it should be "throwing them to the dragons".

This means that "right and wrong" need to be more than mere technicalities in the child's mind. They need to be emotive aspects of what it means to serve God. "Don't do that, it's a sin" is not the same as "that would displease the Lord and cause great sadness for your mother", and if parents do not help their children in this way, then they leave them exposed to great temptations that they are not able to handle. A good healthy conscience--tied to the emotion of lovingly desiring to please the Lord--is a tool that every child will rejoice at having when he becomes an adult. Why would any parent not want to give that to his children?