Question: What does it mean to be “put to shame,” as in David’s frequent prayers to not be put to shame? Does it fit into the Christian framework, or was it just important before Christ?
Answer: This is a good question, because the terminology is not something we use in our day or in our culture. In fact, the concept of “shame” is less familiar to us than it was to David and company.
To be put to shame is to be humiliated. It is when people view us with contempt, disrespect or deep disapproval. It is to “lose face,” as when one loses the respect of others or loses a good reputation.
When David prays these prayers, he is pointing out to God that all eyes are upon him and he doesn’t want to be humiliated in front of the nation or general public. He doesn’t want to be an object of their scorn.
Personally, I think it still has some relevance, as long as we understand it rightly. To want to look good in front of people may not be the simple, selfish pride of trying to keep up a good front. It need not be a lack of humility.
We should genuinely want to earn people’s respect, have a good name in our community and succeed at what we do. If we do foul something up, we want people to cut us some slack because they know we really tried, merely failed, and ultimately want to learn from our errors.
Simultaneously it should not be our desire to try to drag people down and make them look foolish. Gossip is often motivated by a desire to do just that. We should remember that others want to be treated respectfully just as we do. We can enhance one another’s respect or reputation by pointing out their strong points to others or to the people themselves.