Your disciple cannot follow Jesus if controlled by shame. Following Jesus is about belonging and nothing destroys belonging like shame. It is not an issue he can avoid nor will it just go away. It casts a long shadow so even shame from years ago he remembers as if it was yesterday.
Shame comes in various forms and degrees. Some shame is emotionally crippling while other shame has less consequence. There is shame he has brought on himself and shame that was not his fault. Some was imagined while some was very real.
It could be shame associated with his family or the shame of a mental or physical limitation. A man with a learning disability said to me, Lewie, do you know how painful it is to feel dumb every day of your life? School for me was a walk of shame.
Whatever its source shame makes cowards of us all. It was R.G. Collingwood who wrote:
What a man is ashamed of is always at bottom himself; and he is ashamed of himself at bottom always for being afraid.
Ministries have tried to accommodate people’s emotional fears by creating approaches, curriculum, and programs that limits relational risk for everyone involved, including the leader. It gives the illusion of love and community but behind the façade there are not the bonds of trust necessary for authentic relationships.
Leading a small group, teaching a bible study, leading worship, and doing service projects can be done in emotional safety. One can give the appearance of vulnerability but the test of vulnerability is in relationships. Recently I was with a friend who told me how her boss would display vulnerability behind a podium, but in a staff meeting or one-on-one he was anything but vulnerable.
Your disciple needs for you to place yourself in the vulnerable position to love him unconditionally. To place yourself in the vulnerable position of being the first to say, “I love you.”