(For context, be sure to read Fear & Hiding: Lessons from Adam & Eve, Part One)
When Adam & Eve found themselves naked and ashamed they initially responded in two ways:
- They tried to cover themselves with aprons of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7)
- They attempted to hide (Genesis 3:8,10)
In attempting to cover themselves, Adam & Eve sought to hide their shame and exposure. But it wasn’t enough. It was a counterfeit attempt at covering. Because it wasn’t enough, they next resorted to hiding. In hiding, they did two things: They distanced themselves from God and they put other things between them and God in their efforts to avoid being seen in their nakedness/sin. I believe that this outlines a pattern that plays out today.
Consider the following. The natural man’s initial responses to sin often follow the same pattern:
- Try to cover self: justification, blame, rationalization
- Attempt to hide: denial, lying, avoidance
One of my personal definitions of shame is “the felt need to hide”. It is human nature to want to feel safe. This is true physically and this is true emotionally. Sin causes individuals to fear judgement, rejection, disapproval or disconnection. And so it is natural to hide. Hiding can take many forms.
We try to hide from our own consciences, and we try to hide from others.
Many justify their actions in an attempt to cover up any wrong that was committed. Many cast blame on others or on circumstances in order to try to release themselves of being exposed and risking the disapproval of others. And many find ways to rationalize in order convince either themselves or others that they did no sin. And while these strategies may help to alleviate some cognitive dissonance, it does not lead to healing, repentance or emotional safety.
In attempts to hide our mistakes and weaknesses from others, many will deny any wrongdoing, lie overtly, withhold full or partial truths, or even physically hide by avoiding certain places or relationships in which it feels vulnerable to be exposed. Some people even hide in plain sight by projecting attitudes and facial expressions that suggest something that is untrue or inauthentic.
And doing these things don’t make a person bad. They reveal that the effects of the fall, and natural man reactions to the effects of exposure to the fall, are embedded in us. But, as was the case with Adam and Eve, these attempts at hiding our nakedness are ultimately ineffective.
Luckily, or rather, mercifully, there was a third way that Adam and Even ultimately responded with, and which is available to us as well:
- They allowed Christ to cover them with coats of skins (Genesis 3:21)
Similarly, we can allow Christ to cover us as we apply the Atonement through repentance. Even if we have tried to cover ourselves, and have attempted to hide, or even if we have spent years in hiding, if we respond the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him, His is prepared to receive us, heal us, and cover us. He is our Savior, Redeemer and Advocate. Each of those titles and roles is powerful. He can save us from our sin, and our hurts, and our oppressors. He can redeem us from our sins. And He can advocate for us:
“Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying, Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they man come unto me and have everlasting life (D&C 45:3-5).”
When we feel guilty or ashamed, our natural man instinct is to fear and to hide.
However, if we can instead turn to the Savior, He will help us to repent and He will cover us through His Atonement. If, in those moments of shame, we can remember to choose guilt, and to allow it to remind us of our divinity and our opportunity to improve, it can invite us to turn to the Savior and be covered. Like Adam and Eve, it is important that we learn that rather than try to hide and cover our mistakes and vulnerabilities from God, we can approach God in our vulnerabilities and He will cover us.