One day my daughter was watching an episode of some sitcom (for some reason I think it was an episode of the Brady Bunch). In this episode, a young boy found himself feeling quite small and insecure next to his older brothers and sisters who had won several trophies in several sports events. In an effort to make him feel better his family organized a race for the boy which included several other kids from the neighborhood. The winner of the race would receive a trophy.
The day of the race came and the young boy and several other children from the neighborhood lined up to compete in the race for the trophy. On your mark! Get Set! Go!!! And they were all off. The boy easily surpassed the other children and crossed the finish line in first place. The other kids then rallied around him and he held his trophy high. He was so proud of winning the race and receiving his trophy.
When he got home he placed his first place trophy on their mantle with the rest of his brothers and sisters' trophies. Later that night as he was going to bed, he overheard his brothers and sisters congratulating themselves on making their brother feel better by paying off the other kids to let him win the race.
All of a sudden all the joy and satisfaction of winning the race fell away. In fact, he actually felt worse than he did before and he retreated in shame up to his room sinking into a deep depression.
The feeling of this shame and disappointment (including all the destructive feelings and actions that come with it) comes from an Ancient Israelite term known as "Bread of Shame". In Hebrew the word which is translated as ashamed/shame is buwsh, but rather than just a sense of humiliation or a consciousness of wrong doing as described in our English language the word buwsh suggests a feeling of disconnectedness, disappointment, anger, and confusion.
The concept of "Bread of Shame" comes from the idea that both men and women have an inherent desire to work for, earn, and enjoy the fruits of their labors. When a person or group of people are at a disadvantage and/or are forced to receive grace/charity from another they feel a very strong and internal sense of shame and disappointment. The result of this shame and disappointment leads them to a condition of being emotionally and spiritually confounded (angry). This then leads to the forbidden paths of destructive behaviors.
This ancient concept of "Bread of Shame" is the concept behind this passage in the Prophet Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life:
“And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.”
We are literally seeing this ancient teaching at play when we cast our eyes to some of the things we see going on in our country today:
1. A young 16 year old girl who receives a Mercedes Benz for her 16th birthday and whose parents supply her with enough credit cards to shop at the finest stores only to later be arrested for breaking into the office of an apartment complex to steal whatever she can find.
2. A new housing project in downtown Atlanta decked out with all the latest amenities and given to low or no income occupants only to find them having to be completely gutted two years later because they were literally destroyed by the occupants.
3. A young man who scores the winning touchdown and is declared MVP only to find his life later to be taken over by drugs and other self destructive behavior.
4. A singer who becomes the newest celebrity only to find themselves consumed by the constant hunger for approval that leads them to engage in self destructive behaviors.
The list could go on and on.....
A person receives (and it really doesn't matter what they receive) something they perceive either consciously or unconsciously as unearned- a race, a car, wealth, celebrity, etc. In fact while they experience the illusions provided by our idolatrous world, their spirits at a very sublime level perceive the illusion for what it is. In a sense, this disparity causes a form of spiritual cognitive dissonance which results in a condition of the the person trying to bring him or herself back into a state of body/spirit equilibrium. "Bread of Shame" destroys their internal sense of value and their ability share themselves in the creation of the world. It prevents us from experiencing the fullness of joy.
Does this then mean that grace/charity is bad? God Forbid! This is why the prophet Nephi said, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23)
THE HEALING EQUATION:
God desires for all of us to receive of his fullness and to partake of his matchless love and power. But, if grace/charity then produces this shame in mankind (even if only at an unconscious level), it prevents us from receiving the fullness of joy. There would be those who would then say, "Why would you want God's grace/charity then?" or "See you have to earn your salvation? You have to earn it." But this sentiment would negate the teaching "that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do." True grace and charity to be true grace and charity is something that is freely given. This is why King Benjamin declared:
"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?" (Mosiah 4:19)
All mankind are truly beggars before God. There is none who are righteous-no not one. We have all gone out of the way (Romans 3:10-12). If we approach life in the manner that everything we have is a gift from God and none of it is earned, then we have embraced one half of the eternal equation which connects us back to the light - Loving God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. In this there is no shame, but a realization of everyone's true condition:
"For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world." (Mosiah 4:5-7)
All mankind has shame or the Bread of shame. Instead of wrestling with "Bread of Shame" God has already revealed our true condition, but this is not all. We must not remain in shame. We MUST remove the "Bread of Shame". How then is this done?
THE SECOND PART OF THE EQUATION:
We remove Bread of Shame by loving our neighbor as ourselves or receiving from God to bestow upon others. In doing so, the internal struggle comes to an end. The spiritual cognitive dissonance stops. The spiritual/physical pain is healed. And we are reconnected to the light of the Upper World.
In other words, if a person receives wealth let him show forth love to his neighbor out of that which he has been given. If a person receives "celebrity" let them not believe the illusion of the celebrity but take the celebrity and lift others up. If they receive "knowledge", let them not be puffed up in knowledge but share that knowledge with others to help others and make their lives better. In taking whatever gift God has given us, let us turn toward our brothers and sisters and share the free gifts given by God to all of us, and give to each other with the instruction that they in turn then take the gift they are given and give to others who stand in need.
In the words of King Benjamin:
"And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another." (Mosiah 4:21)
In doing so, we will not be like those in Lehi's dream who "after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost." But will find ourselves back in the paradise of God like Adam and Eve:
"And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:25)
Instead of earning the light to covet we receive the light to bless God and others. This then is the ancient Israelite equation of connecting with the light of God to bestow light to the world. It is the receipt and bestowal of this light that will bring healing to our individual selves and our collective communities. Humankind was designed with the desire to receive. But as Yehoshuah Messiah (Jesus Christ) has stated:
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)