Shame on you! Don’t bring shame on your people! Don’t do anything that will embarrass the family!

Those phrases were a huge part of my childhood.

As a mixed-race child in a small community, my very existence was shameful to my family. I was the thing that the other Japanese-American families feared – a “hapa” grandchild.

They knew that a “hapa” family member would never be fully accepted by the community and would always live on the edges.

So much shame.



Being “hapa” brought challenges I was unprepared for as a child. At school, I was never “white enough.” In the Japanese community, I was not “Japanese enough.”

I was not allowed to attend Saturday school at the Buddhist temple because I was only “hapa.”

The kids at school thought I was too Asian to be included and came up with creative names for my “otherness.” My combination of auburn hair, dark slanted eyes, and freckles just didn’t fit any of their boxes.

It seemed wrong to be held responsible for something I had no control over. I couldn’t change the fact that my brilliant Japanese-American mom fell in love with a red-headed, smooth-talking Irish-American.

Family members told me that when my grandmother found out about their elopement, she threatened to tear her eyes out so she wouldn’t see such a shameful thing.

Thankfully, Grandma didn’t blind herself. In fact, she spent much of her time caring for my brother and me after my parents divorced. But she never came to our school activities like she did for our full Japanese cousins.

Caring for us in private was acceptable. Taking us to community events was too shameful. It was almost like public humiliation.


Jesus to the Rescue

In middle school, a friend invited me to go to church with her. Her family would come and pick me up on Sunday mornings to join them for worship services. Wednesday nights, they would take me to youth group.

I was stunned by the gospel presented at that Bible-believing church. Jesus knew me and loved me enough to die for my sins! He made me “hapa” and loves me.

“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

He is not ashamed of me. This was the good news I had been longing for! I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior at a youth event.

Being in right relationship with Jesus changed everything for me. My salvation was settled. I didn’t have to work to earn Jesus’s affection. I received it as a gift.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

I was set free from feeling shame. I have a perfect Heavenly Father who will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Zephaniah 3:17 tells me that He delights in me and sings over me.

I regularly rejoice in the truth of Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation equals no shame!


Shame Off You

Maybe you also have felt shame over something you had no control over. You may be ashamed of your childhood circumstances, choices that others made that impacted you, or abuse you survived.

You did nothing to cause the issue, but you have been held captive by shame.

The old memory of “shame on you” can be replaced by the truth of “shame off you” offered by Jesus. What a comfort!

As we bring our pasts into the light of God’s truth, the Lord comforts us with His word.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.” Isaiah 54:4 NIV

Our Heavenly Father tells us to not be afraid, we will not be put to shame, and that we will forget the shame of our youth.

Those promises provide peace and comfort.

As forgiven children of a loving Heavenly Father, we don’t have to feel ashamed. We can trust God’s promises and His compassion.

We can live shame-free.


Additional Resources:

The Soul of Shame by Dr. Curt Thompson
Grace That Breaks the Chains: Freedom from Guilt, Shame, and Trying Too Hard by Neil T. Anderson, Rich Miller, and Paul Travis
Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame by Heather Davis Nelson
Mission Hills Church Sermon: Come Find Your Mercy – Chronic Shame | Mark 5:25-34
Re:generation: A 12 Step Christian recovery program meeting Tuesdays at 6:30 PM at Mission Hills Church

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