Ever since mankind’s fall into sin, we’ve been trying to hide our guilt and shame. In fact, as soon as Adam and Eve sank their teeth into that forbidden fruit we read, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen 3:7).
With guilt comes shame. And with shame comes the instinctive effort to hide. For Adam and Eve it took the form of fig leaves to cover their nakedness. But this symbolic act is replayed a thousand times every day as people take up their own fig leaves in an effort to hide their guilt and shame.
The glory of the gospel is that it sets us free from trying to hide. For through the death and resurrection of Christ, our guilt is removed, our shame is washed away, and our identity is Beloved.
To the degree that we are resting in the work of Christ, we will live openly and honestly, trusting that Christ has covered all our guilt and shame. On the other hand, to the degree that the gospel is not the defining reality of our lives, we will take up our own fig leaves in a futile effort to cover our guilt and shame.
Here is a list of 10 common ways we try to hide our guilt and shame:
1. Projecting – Instead of dealing with my own sins and failures through the gospel, I project them onto others. E.g. I struggle with pride in my knowledge. When another person disagrees with my idea, I assume it’s because they struggle in the same way I do.
2. Hiding – Hiding our sins from other, God, and ourselves, instead of open confession and faith in Christ. E.g. Always speaking in vague generalities about my sin, or not speaking at all.
3. Minimizing – Acting and speaking as if my sin isn’t a big deal, instead of recognizing that Jesus endured the wrath of God for that sin. E.g. “It’s just a white lie.” Or “It’s not like I murdered anybody.”
4. Fantasizing – Instead of trusting Jesus to take my sin and shame, I fantasize in order to escape the pain. E.g. Working long hours to escape my failures as a husband. Or constantly imagining myself as the hero/superstar in any given situation.
5. Blaming/Excuse-making/Rationalizing – Instead of owning my sin and receiving Christ’s forgiveness, I blame other people or circumstance and play the victim. E.g. The reason I’m failing as a husband is because my wife won’t submit!
6. Religion/Morality – Instead of receiving Christ’s free pardon of my sins, I buckle down and try harder. E.g. When I sin, I try to read my bible more and pray more to sooth my conscience.
7. Denying – Instead of trusting Jesus’ death to cover all my sins, I deny those that are particularly disturbing.
8. Comparing – Instead of receiving the righteousness of Christ, I compare myself to others whom I perceive to be worse than myself in order to make me feel “righteous.”
9. Humor – Instead of owning the seriousness of my sin, I cover it with jokes and humor to make myself feel better.
10. Faking – Instead of believing what God says about me in Christ, I strive to make others think I’m something special. E.g. I agonize over past conversations because I’m afraid I said something wrong and people will think less of me.
What are the fig leaves you struggle with the most?