Shame Vs. Guilt

One of my favorite passages in literature comes from Jane Eyre. As punishment for a small infraction, Jane is placed on a high stool, towering above her classmates and made to sit there in public humiliation. During the course of the day, her close friend, Helen Burns, passes by and gives her a loving look which strengthens Jane to withstand the shame of her unjust punishment.

Helen Burns' faith stands in stark contrast to the harsh, judgemental legalism of Mr. Brocklehurst. Where Helen seeks reconciliation, Brocklehurst seeks retribution. Where Helen excercises tolerance, Brocklehurst wreaks condemnation.

This reminds me of John 8 where Jesus refuses to condemn the "woman caught in adultery." Where the mob of self-righteous Pharisees were intent on publicly shaming the woman, Jesus was concerned with restoring her, forgiving her and in the process turning the mirror upon the Pharisees that they might see their own hypocrisy.

Jesus embodied the Scripture that says: "it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance."

Shaming breeds resentment, not repentance.

As a parent, I find myself aware of the profound responsibility of disciplining my children without shaming them. For me, there is a line between guilt and shame. If my child touches a can on the shelf of the grocery store, he/she is guilty of disobeying my rule of "no touching in the store."  However, if I publicly chasten my child, I have shamed him/her. If I resort to threats, bribery or yelling, haven't I I completely missed the goal of discipline?

Like Jesus with the adulterous woman, the goal of discipline is the restoration of fellowship. I am interested in true repentance which alters real-life behavior. I do not want the grudging obedience of a child simply avoiding punishment and then continuing in the errant behavior once no-one is looking.

This is why I do all my training/chastening at home because I believe a child is the same at home as in public. If my child were to throw a fit in the grocery store, I would realize that I have neglected certain areas in my child's behavior at home. When we go out in public, those areas are simply magnified for all to see.

I am interested in training my child to choose obedience because the rewards of obedience (fellowship) outweigh the consequences of disobedience: chiefly the breaking of our fellowship. Like a lost child crying for it's mother, the breaking of fellowship is the natural consequence of disobedience. My children are in love with me and I with them. Any break in that connection causes grief to their hearts and mine. We are knitted together and before we can reconnect, that issue of disobedience must be addressed.

I delight in the spontaneous affection that flows from a child restored to fellowship with his/her parent.

"Mommy, I looooove YOU! Mommy, can we do something together? Mommy, I just want to squueeeeze you!"

I know I have done right when obedience springs from true love.

Caveat: This is the principle by which I function. It does not mean that I have wholly attained unto it! I am still learning day-by-day; however I think it's important to at least have a goal/standard in mind when approaching the issue of childhood behavior. What do you think? Please share.