According to MarketLine, the global apparel and luxury goods market had total revenues in 2011 of $1,778.5 billion. That's a lot of money spent on what we wear or carry around (clothing, jewelry, handbags, etc).
There's also something else we wear or carry around that we spend a lot of money on. It's called “guilt and shame.”
According to industry data, Americans spent more than $16 billion on antipsychotics and $11 billion on antidepressants in 2010. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011, suicide and self‐inflicted injuries resulted in an estimated $41.2 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.
There is absolutely no way to identify every contributing factor to this expenditure of money. I am asking you to consider though, just how much of this money was spent because of men, women, and children wearing around guilt and shame? I am convinced guilt and shame is the major culprit behind this kind of spending.
According to suicide.org, global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past forty‐five years, so that 1.8 % of all deaths in the world are now from suicide. In the U.S. alone, more members of the U.S. Military died from suicide in 2012 than died on the battlefield.
And for every individual who succeeds in committing suicide as many as twenty‐five others will try and fail (save.org). There are also those people who choose to die slowly by committing a sort of incremental suicide—a death by a thousand cuts—from intentionally living reckless and destructive lifestyles.
Why is so much human life spent on suicide—whether immediate or over time? Again, I am asking you to consider, just how much human life is lost because of men, women, and children wearing around guilt and shame? I am equally convinced wearing this heavy burden is the major culprit.
But we shouldn't stop here. I am also convinced that most of the rest of us in America wear around a certain amount of guilt and shame. How can I possibly defend my highly unscientific conclusion? I have come to this conclusion because I have never spoken to anyone at length who did not eventually reveal at least some symptoms.
But then I am not addressing every person in the world, or even every person here in America. I am however, speaking to you—wherever you live. I want to help you realize any guilt and shame you may be wearing, so you can trade it for something that looks better on you and feels a whole lot more comfortable.
Over the next few days, I want to show you just how significant the word “forgive” is to our human survival.
What is guilt and shame? Either word can be defined by a dictionary, but they are both bigger than any dictionary definition. In the Bible, shame usually occurs as a result of guilt, and guilt usually creates a sense of shame. They sort of go together.
According to the Bible, every one of us has sinned, which makes every one of us guilty.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. (Romans 3:23 ESV)
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12 NKJV)
Not all of us though, will feel the shame of guilt because of our hardened hearts. In other words, some people feel no shame even thought they are still guilty.
Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:18–29 NKJV)
Some people with hearts that are callous to their guilt, have moved past feeling (have become insensitive to pain or grief) so they no longer even feel the shame of their guilt.
Here's where it gets really twisted. Earlier this week in Cleveland, Ohio, three women were freed from being held captive for ten years as sex slaves by a trio of brothers. This is a perfect example of guilt and shame at work.
It would appear that the guilty (presumably the brothers) have moved past having any feeling, so they no longer even feel the shame of their guilt (otherwise, it is hard to imagine how they could have done what they did for so many years). But it would also appear the enslaved women are loaded down with shame—a shame they are in no way responsible for.
Please note: I am in no way saying I know how anyone involved feels. I am only trying to illustrate guilt and shame in a way that cannot be expressed in words. It's not hard to imagine the severity of the mental/emotional damage done to these women. But it's also not hard to imagine the tremendous amount of guilt and shame that must be a part of this damage.
Were they in any way guilty of the crimes committed against them? Of course not. But they were a part of the crime, even though they were innocent of the crime. They were, in a perverse and unjust sort of way, guilty by association. Let me explain.
God told Moses to send men from ever tribe of the children of Israel into the promised land to check it out. All twelve of the men, after returning from their spying mission, confirmed that the land God had given them indeed flowed with milk and honey. (See Numbers 13:1–28.)
But ten of the twelve reported that the obstacles to taking the land were just too great. Only Caleb and Joshua believed the Israelites could take over the land. The rest of the Israelites however, sided with the ten and rebelled against the Lord. (See Numbers 13:29–14:10.)
As a result of this rebellion, God said the entire Israelite nation would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years, and nobody except for Caleb, Joshua, and anybody under the age of twenty would enter in to this Promised Land. (See Numbers 14:11–39.)
Was every single Israelite guilty of the crime? Of course not. Caleb, Joshua, and the under‐twenty crowd were mentioned by name as not guilty. But what about Moses? And what about the family members and friends who sided with Moses, Caleb and Joshua? All of these people were not guilty of the crime of rebellion. But they were certainly part of the crime, and had to have suffered the associated guilt and the shame of the entire group, even though they themselves were innocent.
What is my point? We need to be very intentional about understanding the power of forgiveness because we don't just carry around our own guilt and shame. We also carry around the guilt and shame we have put on by association.
And unless we are deliberate about putting “all” of it under the blood of Jesus, we will be dragging “some” of it through our entire lives—wondering why we are moving so slowly.
Have a good day,