shame and grace


“When you’re trapped inside a social system where you constantly have to work for your own superiority and can slip into inferiority in a moment, you are inevitably very insecure. That is the honor/shame hierarchy. God doesn’t participate in such a system.” Richard Rhor

How do I tell you my friend, my neighbor, my wife, my daughter, my brother, my sister that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, forgiven, accepted, brought in, empowered, loved?

For that is my calling. That is primary what God wants of me: to pass on to you what He has given me – to pass on truth and grace. Once you understand, then that’s your calling too.

Many times I don’t know how to do it and I feel so helpless. I don’t feel smart enough to figure out how to get beyond your resistance. Sometimes I am lost in my own insecurity and am afraid to try. But in my heart of heart I so want to. For when I meet you there in that true place of worth and forgiveness, acceptance, brought in, empowered and loved, it is like being in the light and we have true connection with one another and for that moment I am living with you in the real, not in the dark.

What I found is the only way I can fulfill such a duty is by letting my brokenness lead, the brokenness He has reached in deep to meet me there, to reduce me and inso freeing me.

Sometimes grace is wonderfully terrifying.

I hope to meet you there.


moanalua gardens

Hey Jon,

Thanks so much again for speaking to my students. I was ministered to very powerfully, as well, as your teaching helped challenge deep-seated shame and brokenness in my own life, too.

I’ve included some messages below from students thanking you, as well!

Eve- Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable with us. Your love of your daughter, family, us, and God was clearly shown to us. Your wisdom from your struggles inspired many of us to take a look at our shame and not sulk in it but rejoice in the lessons it has taught us and the beauty that can come from it. Basically, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend quality time with us over a short weekend. We learned a lot!

Jessi- thank you for being different than any other speaker we’ve had before, and for making us sit in our brokenness so that we could seek out God’s work, and love, and grace in all aspects of our lives. your deep love and creativity was truly inspiring.God bless

Daniel- Thanks for challenging us (me for sure) to engage with our brokenness in a way that makes us aware of it. It was an incredible weekend to be able to bond as a community of broken people. May God bless you and your family…in brightest day, and blackest night. #CORPSforCHRIST

Amber Kim- Thank you Jon for sharing understandings that God showed you with us. God truly used your words as an answer to prayer – for AAIV’s community and for myself personally. Thank you for being creative and choosing to go with not the norm of retreats. I believe our God is a creative God and He definitely used your mind to show us that! One last thing, thank you for sharing with us the incredible godly love you have for your daughter and wife. May you and your family be continually blessed to bless others!

Loua- Thank you Jon for challenging me to continue to grow in my faith. Specifically, reminding me of my brokenness and how God’s persisting grace continues to redeem us over and over again. Your message and the vulnerability you showed us at this retreat made it so much more valuable to me this year. Thanks.

Michael- I must say, Jon, your story definitely got to me. Some of the things that you have gone through are similar to my worries for the future. It was nice to see someone who has been through those issues and seems to be doing pretty well in the end. Your messages definitely challenged me, and I am still working on processing and wrestling with some of the questions and challenges. You were definitely a GREAT speaker, and I hope we meet sometime again. Prayers for you and your family, and I hope life treats you well! God bless!

Cathy- Jon, thank you for opening my eyes to hidden brokeness and sharing lessons, both biblical and personal. Your vulnerable sharing made your teachings all the more genuine and made me reflect on my own character. I confronted some scars, and also found healing. We as his people may constantly battle with shame, but in God there is grace that always redeems. Again, thank you so SO much for all that you have done. I truly hope we have the chance to meet again.

Amanda- Hi Jon, Thank you so much for giving up your time to come and share God’s word with all of us. Truly, through this retreat, I have learned of my brokenness and shame and was truly ashamed of them. I am reminded that God’s grace overshadows what pain I may be going through. I thank God for speaking through you to us to show us that we are broken somehow but because of His love for us, we are redeemed. I am so touched by your genuine faith and love for God, as well as for your daughter. May God continue to bless you and your family just as you were a blessing to all of us.

Aimee Brown Hi Jon It’s always great to dive into God’s word, but I think it’s really great is to see how it’s lived out. Not many people are willing to put themselves out there and be vulnerable in their weaknesses. I’m really thankful for how you were able to demonstrate your openness to God’s will, even through the struggles and brokenness of life, and was encouraged in hearing your perspective of persistent grace. Glad we got to share this weekend with you. Thank you!

I came out of speaking at this weekend’s retreat with this thought: Resisting vulnerability correlates with resisting grace. We need to risk being vulnerable in order to receive grace.
In the retreat talks I had each student do a tactile/kinesthetic exercise that was to help them:
1. self- examine
2. self-express
3. take a vulnerable step
4. allow grace to touch them deeply
I truly believe how much more deeper is this approach then just giving a message with some follow up discussion questions. After each session, the students gathered in small groups to talk, but they didn’t need discussion questions. They just shared their experience of the session to one another.

explaining the exercises
the latex glove- Jesus calling us out of our hiding places
As we looked at the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, we imagined his life and how he may have coped with it by hiding and pretending. Others who met Jesus, like the leper, the demoniac, the paralytic and the woman in bed with a fever- all who are recorded in Mark prior to the 3rd chapter, could not hide and pretend. Their shame was right out in front of all. But the man with the withered hand could hide his hand and pretend.
We talked about Jesus calling us out of hiding and bring our shame into the light in order to receive grace. Each student was given a glove and wrote on it their shame name. Some wrote “loser” “rejected” “broken” “ugly” “weak” “coward”. Then they took off the glove and turned it inside out. They wrote on the other side of the glove ways they hide their shame, like being funny, helpful, obedient, tough.
At the end of the session they each came up front, one by one, and took off their glove. They shared their shame name and ways they hide. With a wet cloth, I or another leader, washed each student’s hand and spoke the word of reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed for the cleansing of their shame. Then I took a marker and wrote a word of grace that I thought fitting to replace the shame name. I wrote words such as “victor” instead of “loser”, “glory” instead of “ugly”, “accepted” instead of “rejected”.
It was a powerful first night by providing a bridge to be vulnerable and to receive grace.

writing strengths on a balloon- The deconstructing of Peter
The second session was the next morning and I talked about how Jesus broke Peter’s props that he uses to avoid dealing with his own frail ego. Peter looked mighty strong and bold, spiritually, socially and even physically, but he relied on his own strength in following Jesus. And Jesus took the air out of that balloon along the way of their time together. It came to the point even where Jesus predicted that all Peter’s bravery and power would fall apart as Peter would deny Jesus three times.
The students took balloon and blew them up. They wrote their strengths and giftedness as they have perceived them to be. Then I had all the students raise their balloons (not tying a knot in it). I picked one student to release his balloon as the rest kept theirs. I asked him how it felt losing his balloon of strengths while everyone else still had theirs. Then everyone released their balloons and wrote reflections on what that would be like if they lost their “props” that keep them going while bearing their shame burden.
Again a deep time of interaction afterwards.

Making cracked clay bowls- Mary M and beauty out of brokenness
Saturday night we looked at the life of Mary Magdalene and how her life before Jesus was one of destitution. We then moved into seeing what a transformation into beauty came because of her encounters with Jesus. I used many stories and illustration of the power of God’s grace to make beauty out of brokenness.
The students took clumps of clay and made bowls. Then they drew shame cracks, ways shame has broken them. At the end they were given small strands of gold clay to fill in those cracks. They went off alone to do this and to talk with God about helping them see the beauty He is doing in them. Then they came together in groups and shared.
Most powerful of the sessions.

Clothspins on my ear- Leftover shame and Paul’s thorn in the flesh
I tried to answer the question “If Christ has come and washed us, why is their leftover shame?” Using several illustrations I proposed 4 reasons:
1. Unfinished work of grace needed to deal with deep hidden brokenness
2. compassion
3. humility
4. power beyond self
To start the session I had each one take a clothespin and write the temptation and struggle that had ever persisted in their life. I then put mine on my ear and asked them to put it on their body somewhere as well. After the message they broke up into triads and gave someone their clothespin. They made a covenant with one another to pray for each other and to support each other this half year in dealing with their “thorn in the flesh”.
This ended the weekend and finished strong.

I am convinced that more tactile/experiencial learning needs to be incorporated in the message giving in our church gatherings.

I am even more convinced that vulnerability is needed in order to receive grace.

Resist Vulnerability=Resist Grace


I have been working on a series of messages for an upcoming retreat. The theme is “Grace Overshadows Shame….always.” I picked four characters in the New Testament who were deeply touched with Jesus’ grace. I have four objects in which the attenders will use to do exercises helping them connect more with their shame and His grace. They say the hardest 18 inches to travel is fro the head to the heart. I am trusting these as bridges to assist people there.

What I am talking about here is process beyond content driven learning. How to get them out of their heads and into the pit of their stomachs. The church is over saturated with content work (listening to sermons, memorizing scriptures, reading, group discussions). Content work is head work and in danger of neglecting heart (emotions, passions, resolve, grief, repentance). The art of helping people move in process is daring if truly taken seriously. The word process often is used merely as discussing something. That’s not what I am taking about here. True process is wild, deep and beyond head stuff.

Each one of these activities has come to me when I am in prayer and preparing for talks. They are not things I have found in books. Sometimes…I take that back. Many times I am afraid to do this. Content based teaching/preaching is so much safer. I am so much more in control. Letting go of control and trusting in the process of the work directed by the activity and the Spirit of God, is a huge step. But I am reminded then so much that I want to be this kind of teacher, in this place of wildness and surrender.

I will explain these exercises in my next post after I come back from leading the retreat. I want it to be a surprise to the attenders. For now list the title and a picture of what I will have them use in each workshop.

Calling out the man with the withered hand

Deconstructing Peter

Instilling Beauty in Mary Magdalene

Leftover Shame and Paul’s thorn

Misusing Humor
Too many times in my history I in all foolishness said things trying to be funny and instead I was offensive.
Too few times I was confronted on it.
Even fewer times did I receive well and non-defensively.
In time I learned.
I just wish I didn’t take so much time.

The idolatry of Humor
I sweat when I am not funny and I was trying to be.
Humor is the god I seek to protect me when threatened.
It is the god whom I seek to give me power among the people.
Why would someone mess with my god?
“It was all done in humor can’t you take a joke?”
Being funny is in high demand in our world. Because it entertains. And people will like us. We all want that. That’s why we can get all defensive at first.
The question is, “do we dig our heals in deep or do we take a step back and listen?”.
Was Jesus really funny?
Does it really matter?
Is any rationale that he was just a means of rationalizing our own misuse of it?
I am not writing here to identify godly humor vs ungodly humor.
Just want to consider the idolatry of it.

Shame remnant
I get these shame farts once in a while. These are memories of things I regret that seem to come into my consciousness out of nowhere. Not talking about memories of the huge, life-changing mistakes I have done. Many of those have been dealt with between me, God and anyone I might have offended. But rather I am referring to little farts that are embarrassments way in the subconscious, hidden until they bubble up out of my bowels (have you read the research on synapses in the bowels and the reconsideration of all thoughts and feelings are not from the brain? but that is for another blog). Sometimes they are just one of the top ten most embarrassing moments. No need to attend those until I am asked in an ice-breaker to name one. But others come out of regret and guilt. Mistakes I have made. Sometimes they are things I have done that have hurt another. Boy, I got away with way too many. I am thankful for the grace of God that covers all of these. I am grateful for opportunities to make things right. And in hind sight, I am thankful for those brave souls that confronted me about my stuff.

Looking back, I think what was most damaging to my own soul and perhaps to those I offended was not the initial mistake or wrong doing I made but in the ways I stayed on defense.

I hope I am a much more approachable man today than I was in my youth. By the grace of God I hope I am getting better.


This Asian-Pacific Heritage month has taken a big curve in my soul. Boy it is painful to embrace the iniquitous heritage I have. Yet it is mine. I rather hold high the glory given to me than the shame.

I read an article on Japan’s wartime sex slaves and how some Japanese politicians are justifying, minimizing and seeking to hide it from history. It was so painful to read. My Japanese mom and her relatives, what do they think of such things? She was in her teens through her twenties during the 30’s and 40’s. What did she know of such things of war and her country?

What do I do with this part of my heritage? I can’t just hold onto the beauty of my cultural heritage and ignore it’s evil. I can’t just have pride without having humility. If I embrace the honor, I must also embrace the shame.

Covering up shame with beauty is like spraying perfume over body odor that has been brewing from many months of a lack of bathing. No work of mine can cleanse me or my people of the shame. Only forgiveness and grace can.
I looked up The Mission with Robert De Niro so I can watch again the scene of his pardon by the indigenous people of the Guarani community after climbing with all his mercenary weapons and armor tied with a rope around his back. It is a powerful moment when the tribe leader cuts De Niro’s rope and all the weapons and armors fall down the cliff and De Niro weeps.
Can’t scrub enough to get a cleansing of the soul. It has to be given by another.

How does a people find forgiveness from another? I understand it individually. One person offers it to another. But what of a people to another? And how does an individual of a group who in the past has done a great offense make peace? I have heard and seen people groups within the church community express repentance, not for their own personal sins but for the sins of their fathers and father’s fathers. And forgiveness was extended and many tears on both sides were wept.

These reflections of my soul has brought some new light to my theological sense of shame. We come into life out of sin (Psalm 51:5) and out of glory (Psalm 139:13-14).

“Behold, I was shapen (brought forth NASB) in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5 KJV

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

Within our human inheritance we have our cultural shame and our cultural honor, our family shame and our family honor. We also inherit the shame and honor of humanity.

We must come to grips with both and receive peace.

Christ offers peace. That is the work he has done for us. This grace is a painful experience to receive. He kisses you with His crown of thorns before He kisses you with His crown of glory. Repentance is painful. Forgiveness is as well. May His work of grace motivate us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.


What is shame?

General (universal) shame
feelings of inadequacy
lack of self-containment (out of control)
feeling of exposure
Empty and alone

Cultural-base shame
Losing face
Embarrassing another
displeasing family-significant others
not being sensitive toward another
falling short of obligation
losing control

guilt is relational rather than objective

guilt base culture (based on rules)
shame based culture (based on ralationship)

True shame= conviction
Jeremiah 6:14-15
Lack of shame=Losing the pain of doing harm to another
False shame- a susceptibility to other’s (including inner voices) accusations and blaming even when we haven’t done wrong

Asian Shame

I did this survey back in the early 90’s and wonder if you guys think it still pertains. Do you think Asian American men experience shame different than Asian American women? Do you think the first two categories are the main ways Asian American men experience shame as the study may indicate? Are those categories experiences you have? Which ones more than the other?
Thanks for any thoughts you would share

Four components of Internalized Shame

Feeling defective or not measuring up (Perfectionism)
Feeling embarrassed or exposed (or afraid of exposure)
Feeling empty and alone
Feeling out of control

Surveying 190 college students of various Asian American backgrounds and of various acculturation levels (first generation here to fifth), the shame scores were significantly higher among these Asian American students then with large sampling (300 Caucasian students). Also shame scores had no significant differences between the different cultures of the Asian American students nor a difference between the various generation of acculturation (first generation through fourth showed no differences). No differences between sexes, though I suspect different genders experience shame differently. Also the Asian American students scores were highest with the top two categories (not measuring up and fear of exposure) and lower than mainstream sampling in the bottom two categories (out of control and empty and alone).
The internalized shame experience of the Asian American students not only blew the scores of the general population but even outscored the medium scores of the sample taken from an inpatient sample pool.

From Jon Ido Warden (1993) “Issues of Internalized Shame in Asian Americans: Study of Asian American College Students” The Emerging Generation of Korean Americans, Kyung Hee University Press pp283-308


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