Honor, Shame, and Christian Character (Video)

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If you could snap our fingers to eradicate shame from the world, would you do it? Would it be a better place? This is not as easy and straight-forward a question to answer as you might think.

Consider the ways that honor and shame influence our moral decision. I recently gave a talk at Redemption Tempe (Arizona) that speaks to this issue. It is titled “Honor, Shame, and Christian Character.” It attempts to show a significant and practical application of honor and shame. This post also introduces a series that develops several sections of the talk.

In preparing for the meeting at Redemption Tempe, I had three main goals.

  1. Recognize how honor and shame influence and motivate our lives
  2. Reframe honor and shame as positive tools for forming character
  3. Offer practical suggestions for using shame for godly purposes

The video combines three short talks and is followed by a Q&A session where I’m joined by a clinical psychologist who contributes her own insights concerning shame.


Here is an outline to help you out as you listen.

I. Living For Honor and From Shame

A. What is shame?

Definition of “shame”?

Three types of shame

B. Shame as a Moral Virtue

A definition of “honor”

Two bases for honor

C. How do we seek to get honor and avoid shame?

D. How do honor and shame motivate moral decisions?

II. Is Shame a Problem or Solution?

Two advantages of shame over guilt

III. Shame as Correction

A. Galatians

B. 1 Corinthians

C. Applications

IV. Shame as Conscience

A. Philippians

B. Philemon

V. Summary and Conclusions

Related Resources


Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission (Jackson Wu)

Defending Shame: Its Formative Power in Paul’s Letters (Te-li Lau)

The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Kwame Appiah)

Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World (Randolph Richards & Richard James)


Jackson Wu, “Have Theologians No Sense of Shame?: How the Bible Reconciles Objective and Subjective Shame.” Themelios. August 2018.

Saving Us from Me: Cultivating Honor and Shame in a Collectivistic Church” in Honor, Shame, and the Gospel. Edited by Chris Flanders and Werner Mischke. Pasadena, Calif.; WCL, 2020.

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