About the Author(s)

Frans P. Rumbi Email symbol
Faculty of Theology, Institut Agama Kristen Negeri Toraja, Tana Toraja, Indonesia

Ivan T.J. Weismann symbol
Faculty of Theology, Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Jaffray Makassar, Makassar, Indonesia

Daniel Ronda symbol
Faculty of Theology, Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Jaffray Makassar, Makassar, Indonesia

Robi Panggarra symbol
Faculty of Theology, Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Jaffray Makassar, Makassar, Indonesia

Yosua F. Camerling symbol
Faculty of Theology, Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Jaffray Makassar, Makassar, Indonesia


Rumbi, F.P., Weismann, I.T.J., Ronda, D., Panggarra, R. & Camerling, Y.F., 2022, ‘From social shame to spiritual shame: On the rite of confession of guilt and sin in Toraja’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 78(1), a7855. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7855

Original Research

From social shame to spiritual shame: On the rite of confession of guilt and sin in Toraja

Frans P. Rumbi, Ivan T.J. Weismann, Daniel Ronda, Robi Panggarra, Yosua F. Camerling

Received: 19 June 2022; Accepted: 31 Aug. 2022; Published: 19 Dec. 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study examines the shame that drives the rite of confession of guilt and sin in the Toraja tradition and then dialogues with the Christian faith. In this study, a qualitative research method was used with an ethnographic approach. Observations and interviews were conducted with figures who knew the topic. The results show that Toraja people experience collective shame when community members commit moral violations. A sense of shame before others or social shame is felt. However, spiritual shame is an aspect that cannot be ignored. Behind the social violations, there are efforts to interpret the relationship with God (Toraja language, Puang Matua), which needs to be brought back to lead people to repentance.

Contribution: This article combines tradition and theology, particularly missional and contextual theology. The results of this study are expected to increase the efforts of each respondent to interpret God in every social violation committed to lead people to repentance.

Keywords: confession of guilt; social shame; spiritual shame; sin; Toraja.


Eastern Asian cultures and traditions in Indonesia use the culture of shame to assess various forms of behaviour. The culture of shame becomes the standard of norms, character and style of relationships built by a community group. In a culture of shame, the appearance of shame indicates that something is lacking in a person. Shame describes the overflowing emotion that results from a loss of honour or self-image. Shame prompts an admission of wrongdoing. A person or group who experiences shame will encourage the guilty party to be responsible for their actions to restore their honour – for example, demanding the perpetrator perform a rite of confession. Some resort to violence to prove their innocence.

The Toraja people of South Sulawesi province use the term longko’ to describe a state of shame or malongko to mean shame and reluctance (Tammu & Van der Veen 1972a). Waterson (2009) showed how shyness (longko’) affects fellowship. The tongkonan kinship (the house where the family comes from) may be well maintained because of the feeling of longko’. Likewise, with joint involvement in funeral or death rites (rambu solo’) as well as respect for ancestors. Sampe (2020) explains that it is a shame that encourages someone to show solidarity by donating energy, time and material during the rambu solo ceremony. Meanwhile, related to social life, shame is experienced when someone admits guilt. Feelings of shame have an impact not only on themselves but also on their families and communities in which they live.

The other words used to describe shyness are siri’ or masiri’ which mean shame; kasiri means respect, and sambo siri’ means the cover of shame in the event of a divorce (Tammu & Van der Veen 1972b:558). According to De Jong (2013:16), siri’ contains a broad and important meaning for the life of the Toraja people. Siri’ forms the attitude and orientation of Toraja people’s life in many actions. Therefore, the culture of shame in Toraja is related to the view of life, values and praxis.

As seen from the explanation above, there is collective shame in Toraja culture. This feeling arises when a family member or community member in a village commits a violation, primarily of moral ethics. A rite of confession of guilt and sin is usually taken to cover up this shame.

Referring to the efforts made to overcome shame, it can be said that shame also functions as a control system in Toraja people. In this case, shame is processed positively. Sanderan (2020:321) says that shame encourages people to participate and show solidarity in various areas of life such as helping other family members and pursuing common interests. Meanwhile, Pasande (2013:117–133) argues that shame (longko’) is used to maintain one’s dignity. Thus, the values in the culture of shame encourage people to act well.

Rites of confession of guilt and sins in Toraja culture tend to be closer to the culture of shame than the culture of wrongdoing. This is in reference to why society responds to every problem by urging the perpetrator to admit guilt and repent. This action is different from a society which emphasises a guilt culture, where awareness about the violations committed, confession and repentance all come from the perpetrator’s conscience (Hutagalung 2007:366–370). In the context of shame, the function of sanctions is not a punishment but a way for people to heal themselves and the relationships that their violations have damaged.

In Toraja’s sociocultural context, it can be said that from the beginning, shame has been entrenched in traditional belief systems and cultural norms known as Aluk sola Pemali (AsP), meaning belief system and prohibitions or taboos. Secondly, the culture of shame is maintained amid social changes and amid religious conversion from Alukta (a local religion in Toraja) to Christianity and Islam. Thirdly, the culture of shame is used as a reference for people to interpret the movement of life (thoughts, feelings and actions) in various fields, including the way they understand, avoid and overcome various forms of deviation in society.

The Toraja cultural system believes that the order of customs and AsP values have been brought from heaven. As a cultural system, AsP is believed to contain religious elements. This point of view is also used in assessing errors. Sins are not just ordinary violations because they are related to spiritual aspects. Guilt damages relationships with others, Puang Matua [God] and even other creatures.

But then there was a shift in guilt and sin along with the entry of Christianity in Toraja at the beginning of the 20th century. Gradually, Christians began to separate culture and religion. They considered that elements that contain worship or worship of gods, such as belief in Alukta (the religion of the Toraja tribe), must be rejected. This then triggered a dualistic attitude among the Toraja people. The pros and cons of culture began to appear regarding what should and should not be done. One culture that invites pros and cons is the rite of confession of guilt and sin. After going through a fairly long process of both commodification and cultural transformation, a new perspective on culture has emerged.

Guilt and sin are not just about transgression; they are related to shame. Shame is felt when a member of society commits a moral violation. Toraja people view sins or moral violations not as the tradition of confessing guilt (for example, dipopantunu) but also as a religious violation, so that there are those who take part in the rite of confession of guilt and sins (e.g. appearing in the ritual massuru’, mangrambu langi’, dipopantunu and so on). However, there are similarities in the stages of the rite of confession of guilt and sin, namely deliberation (Toraja language, mabisara) and culminating in imposing sanctions.

Not much research has been done on shame in both Toraja culture and the culture of other tribes in South Sulawesi. A few studies have been previously conducted, such as Pasande (2013), who examines the longko’ culture and then analysed it from the perspective of Lawrence Kohlberg’s ethics. Regarding ethics, the values contained in longko’ are honour, self-respect, shame, enthusiasm and work ethic. Longko’ is the basis for Toraja people to act honestly and create harmony. Panuntun (2021) examines the values of hospitality in longko’ to answer various problems related to the lack of kinship amid a social change in Toraja (globalisation era). Tandungan and Muttaqin (2020) uses longko’ values as the basis for enforcing the code of ethics in Toraja. According to them, longko’ contains social ethics that can direct people to maintain harmony.

Research on the culture of shame, siri na pesse’, attempts to find the shame values contained and associated with the concept of violation (Tenrigau 2017). Shame and guilt can be important mediating variables in the relationship between religiosity and mental health (Luyten, Corveleyn & Fontaine 1998). Research shows shame correlates with problematic outcomes, while guilt tends to be associated more with adaptive behaviour. As a result, shame is considered an unhealthy moral emotion, while guilt is seen as an adaptive response to one’s failure (Szkredka 2022:313).

A different approach from these studies was adopted for this study, whose purpose was to examine the culture of shame in the rite of confession of guilt and sin in the Toraja culture. Furthermore, the study aimed to have a dialogue with the meaning of shame in the Bible, creatively and constructively, so that it can bring change in society and the church.

Research method

A qualitative method was used with an ethnographic approach to collect data. A comprehensive description (Geertz 1992) was then compiled regarding the rituals of confession and sin that took place in Toraja. Firstly, the areas still carrying out the rite were observed, namely the districts of Simbuang, Buakayu and Rembon. Secondly, a traditional figure was interviewed who knew the information needed. The reasons for carrying out the ritual, especially shame (longko’ or siri’), were investigated. Lastly, a dialogue with the Christian faith was explored.

Result and discussion

Hiding guilt and sin

Guilt and sin are violations of AsP. Based on data from informants, pemali is a basic rule in building relationships with Puang Matua and even with fellow creatures1. A similar view was conveyed by the Alukta (traditional religion) priest in Simbuang (Ambe Mean 2020). In the past, missionaries or priests explained to Christians that guilt in Toraja culture is the same as sin in Christianity (Pea’ 2020). Examples include cases of adultery, incest, conflicts, fights and so on. This understanding then became the starting point to find out the shift in understanding in Toraja culture.

Guilt and sin bring spiritual shame and social shame. Shame is experienced holistically, because guilt and sins damage one’s self-image or honour before God and damage harmonious relationships with other creatures. This holistic view is rooted in the Toraja philosophy of tallulolona (three shoots of life), which describes the close relationship between humans, plants and animals. Various orders of social life were established to maintain the relationship between the three, including various taboos and rituals that need to be carried out to ask God for the forgiveness of sins (Sandarupa, Petrus & Sitoto 2016). In traditional Toraja understanding, if someone commits a violation, especially in terms of morality, it will bring disaster.

Based on observations of various cases where the perpetrators hide their violations, there appears to be a trace of shame behind the guilt experienced by the perpetrators, even though this is not big enough. The main characteristic of shyness is the emergence of self-evaluation and the emergence of feelings of being unwanted by others (Park 2016). However, what happened in Toraja was that although the perpetrators were quite comfortable with their actions, they were also afraid of being punished. Efforts to hide actions do not necessarily refer to attempts to break the relationship. In many cases, the perpetrators act as if they did nothing wrong, letting the situation seem normal until in the end, the situation will force them to reveal their transgression. However, when the problem begins to be revealed, shame is felt collectively by family members or the community in their environment.

Shame on society

Toraja culture uses shame as a basis for judging guilt and sin. Shameful actions impact the harmony of life. Kobong (2008) affirmed shame can prevent the family from falling into chaos. Moral transgression is seen as chaos because it involves all family members. After all, the family is also affected by shame. The worldview describes the function of shame as social control. Therefore, it can give into controlling and directing people away from moral transgression. But harmony can be broken if someone commits a violation. Perpetrators are a source of chaos (Bedford & Hwang 2003:127–144). In a society characterised by a collective, a person is required not to think about themselves. They think and act as members of the community. They would damage their community’s honour if they committed a sin. Stiebert’s (2000) opinion revealed that shame is widely discussed in both the psychological literature (as opposed to guilt) and social anthropology (its relation to honour is associated primarily with women and the loss of public status).

According to Mbuvi (2010), the characteristic of shame and honour is firstly that shame is created and has great value for a group. Secondly, honour and shame are a result of a study about personality. Thirdly, a person gains honour in the public arena after the challenge-riposte, when they show strength and courage, giving alms and wisdom. It will cause shame if they do not act by the excellent values. Fourthly, honour and shame are often subject to gender. Honour is associated with men, and shame is related to women. Fifthly, challenge-riposte is a constant and keeps on going. Sixthly, community leaders and God are essential in an honour and shame culture. Based on this explanation, it can be concluded that honour and shame affect all aspects of human life, especially in their interactions with others and God.

Shame is a very effective means of maintaining social control in a society that prioritises harmony (Bechtel 1991; Bedford & Hwang 2003). To maintain harmony, the initiative to cover up shame comes from the community. Violation is a disturbance to harmony in society which impacts intrarelational (within the community) and inter-relational (outside the community) harmony.

To prevent chaos from actions that can damage harmony in a community group characterised by a collective like Toraja, all citizens are required to not only think about themselves. They must think and act as members of the community. This collective spirit also helps shape the way they judge the violation. A violation not only embarrasses the perpetrator but also all members of the community.

Research interviews revealed that mistakes and sins are closely related to shame with a traditional leader or community leader because they are the implementers of the shame rule. They have understood acts that bring shame as failures to direct their people to live according to traditional and religious norms (Bombing 2020; Pea’ 2020). With this understanding, shame indicates that it is a failure to carry out its social function. This situation is later corrected by bringing the problems that arise into the public domain. They investigate who and what types of violations were committed. Subsequently, a deliberation is held to examine the truth and problems of a case and direct the perpetrators to repentance. The culmination is to legitimise the confession of guilt and sin by imposing sanctions on the victim. The deliberations that take place on Christians and Alukta are accompanied by prayers according to their respective beliefs. In Toraja Christian belief, prayer occurs at the deliberation’s beginning and end, while in the older rites, which the Alukta practise to this day, all processes are placed as part of the ritual.

Looking at the ongoing process, the stages of confession of guilt and sins are ways to restore ‘face’ or honour, because after the incident, the perpetrator is accepted again in normal conditions in the community. The restoration of honour is also experienced by families, community leaders and community members whose reputations were also tarnished (shame) because of the perpetrator’s violations. In this case, the good name or honour of the community is at stake. For example, in the Bible, David as a leader (king) sins and finally admits his guilt. David expresses this guilt in Psalm 51. DiFransico (2018:180) argued that guilt is the dominant emotion conveyed, while shame is less prominent. While interpreters often find self-deprecation and shame in the human condition, the Psalm focuses on remorse for actions and lacks a significant negative evaluation of self.

This description shows that shame is experienced collectively because Toraja society is collective in nature. Pakpahan (2017) argued that shame and guilt are linked in a society with a collective pattern. Shame arises after guilt is caused; the action is considered to damage the honour of the family (Pakpahan 2017). Behaviour like this can be different compared to the results of psychoanalytic studies of the community. Tangney and Dearing (2002) disagreed with the opinion of anthropologists who tend to view shame with society.

Manage shame in the rite of confession of guilt and sin

Rites of confession of guilt and sins are needed to recover from shame. In the rite that takes place, the perpetrator is directed to repentance so that it becomes a way of realising reconciliation, where the perpetrator receives forgiveness and is re-accepted in the society.

The main elements of the rites used in restoring shame include, firstly, a true and fair examination. This stage is not only a way to make good decisions, but it is the initial stage to building trust in the perpetrators, reducing emotional stress (e.g. hardness of heart and fear of mass judgement) so that they are willing to be open in expressing their actions that are considered the cause of shame. Secondly, there is a confession of guilt and sin from the perpetrator. Through confession, the perpetrator confirms his repentance. Thirdly, there are victim sanctions. In the original Toraja tradition, the existence of this sacrificial sanction is a way to re-flow life, which is hampered by guilt and sins (Rumbi 2018). In traditional Toraja belief, natural disasters and disturbances to the environment occur because a member of the community commits a sin. The perpetrator’s willingness to confess to the victim has a symbolic meaning that confirms repentance, which is accompanied by the belief that there is forgiveness. This attitude is also a way to restore the perpetrator’s honour.

From a social perspective, sanctions are needed to prevent the emergence of shame (Pangandongan 2020). A control system applies in the community by emphasising the existence of sanctions for every guilt and sin. People are controlled so they do not do things that bring shame. Thus, sanctions are related to emotional feelings in assessing actions. When sanctions are imposed, all people with close relationships feel ashamed at the conceptual level. This shows that the shame experienced by community members is in the form of social shame.

Until now, the existence of sanctions has sometimes triggered the pros and cons, especially among Christians. Some think that sanctions are unnecessary because Jesus Christ sacrificed himself and forgave sinners. Those who are pro-sanctions see that sanctions confirm confession but have nothing to do with forgiveness of sins. This view shifts the religious meaning by enlarging the social meaning. Meanwhile, in the wider community, sanctions are considered to embarrass the perpetrators. Therefore, to prevent irresponsible parties from exploiting a person’s violation and cornering the perpetrator, everyone is prohibited from bringing up cases that have occurred.

Fourthly, praying and eating together (in some locations, perpetrators are prohibited from eating the sacrificed animal’s meat). Prayer is an attempt to restore spiritual shame. Therefore, it is not just thinking about the relationship between the perpetrator and the community but bringing the perpetrator back to a good relationship with God. In Durkheim’s (2017) view, this way of worship can increase the religious content of a person. Perpetrators must be made aware that their transgressions cause spiritual shame. Therefore, all stages of the rite of confession are directed at restoring shame before God. Eating together is a form of celebration of life. Through it, peace is affirmed and the perpetrators are accepted back with respect in the midst of social life.

If the perpetrator repeats his or her mistake in the future, then the perpetrator can be subject to a more severe sanction, namely being expelled from the village. Perpetrators are no longer considered part of the community. Therefore, anyone will feel heavy with such sanctions because the severance of ties with the community of origin and common ownership of the hometown undermines one’s self-esteem. This is a deep feeling of shame that is hard to recover from.

Shame is hard to forget because it is related to memory. Acts that cause shame have created a feeling of humiliation, especially if sanctions accompany it. But on the other hand, it raises solidarity and togetherness among family members so that together they can cover their shame. The family helps the perpetrator to relieve the sanctions that will be borne by helping the perpetrator provide sanctions for the victim. With actions that cause shame and confessions of sin and guilt, life can flow together again in harmony.

Shame and disgrace

Brueggemann, as quoted by Pattison (2003) says that the act of confessing shame has an impact on the instillation of shame into the minds of those who are guilty or sinful. Shame produces terrible feelings such as humiliation, unlove, rejection, low self-esteem and feeling dirty. In the Toraja context, one way that is considered to embarrass someone is to attack their tongkonan [home and kinship] status. One would feel a loss of honour if one’s tongkonan reputation were belittled. In the past, the tongkonan became a place to maintain social status between nobles and slaves. Therefore, the tongkonan is not only a place to carry out rituals but also a place to negotiate relationships in society (Adams 2006). Waterson (2009:398–399) explained that longko’ is something that cannot be removed from the Toraja people. Longko is felt in family relationships as well as in involvement in ceremonies performed by the family (especially death events). In order to maintain honour, they will do their best by sacrificing certain animals such as pigs or buffalo. Toraja people will feel very embarrassed if they are not involved at all. Therefore, they protect themselves from embarrassment through such involvement.

In the context of violations or guilt, shameful acts are the same as ignoring humanity. Therefore, to prevent someone from humiliating others, the Toraja people use the rite of confession of guilt and sin. Toraja people strongly emphasise the need to prevent attitudes that can bring shame and actions that can embarrass others.

Confession of guilt and sin can cause shame. For the community and families, it covers the shame they experience, but for the perpetrators, shame can continue and negatively impact their psychological condition. The perpetrator’s acknowledgment of the violation is negatively interpreted as revealing disgrace, which creates pressure in the form of shame, doubt and fear of socialising in the community. But it also has a positive meaning. Recognition is a way of covering shame and restoring honour.

Shame, guilt and sin in the Bible

Christianity, which was born in Asian culture, was also influenced by the notion of shame for guilt and sin. By referring to Anton Houtpen’s theory, Pakpahan (2017) suggested four basic emotions that can reveal traces of God’s presence in a person: desire, trust, protest and forgiveness. It is the fourth emotion that tends to arise in guilt and shame. Guilt and shame give rise to hope for forgiveness from God, even others. Sastrapratedja (2008) argued that ‘a sense of guilt is the interiorization of the concept of sin. … acknowledgment of wrongdoing accompanied the need for purge’. Shame undermines one’s honour before God and one’s neighbour. Emotions or shame encourage the emergence of awareness, the desire to acknowledge and improve themselves. In this case, it is necessary to confess guilt and sin. This meaning tends to be forgotten in the rites of confession of guilt and sin in Toraja, which tend to place more emphasis on social shame than spiritual shame. Social shame does bring about change but rather the fear of social sanctions imposed by society.

Guilt and sin are related to a relationship with God. The confession of the perpetrator is a symbol of repentance. This means that confession is a way to restore spiritual shame. Actions can change society if the meaning put forward is spiritual shame. However, transgression that leads to guilt and sin is a religious matter. Therefore, the restoration needed is to restore the relationship with God or the divine. By realising this, the way to enter new relationships with others becomes more open and encourages them to return to a harmonious life.

Shame is present in other parts of the Bible, especially in books of the Old Testament, such as Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The book of Genesis shows the closeness between guilt and shame. The struggle drives spiritual shame in Adam, Eve and Cain’s story, namely shame regarding humanity’s relationship with God. The perpetrator feels ashamed and guilty for violating the boundaries of the action (Gn 3, 4). Humans are ashamed for squandering the honour given by God as his image and likeness. The perpetrators realised their guilt and felt ashamed, so the encouragement of others did not cause it. Adam and Eve experienced social shame and spiritual shame at the same time. Social shame is symbolically present in the act of covering up nudity, while spiritual shame is symbolically demonstrated through the attitude of Adam and Eve, who realised their sin and then hid from God (Gn 3:7, 10).

People’s eyes are opened after they eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They can recognise good and evil and feel ashamed. This explanation raises the question of human knowledge prior to transgression. Is Adam’s knowledge ‘lower’, not broad-minded and passive, because he only enjoys everything that God has provided, or has he not managed his knowledge well? The key words in Genesis 3:7 show two important moments: firstly, the eye was opened, meaning a change in the way of seeing after the element that was blocking the eye was removed. Secondly, there is the naked state, when humans realise they are not wearing clothes. Brake (2021) states that open eyes represent human awareness of their naked condition. Furthermore, humans hide shame because of their nakedness, an illustration of the shame experienced. The real condition is not shown at the story’s beginning so that the human relationship with God goes well. In addition, humans do not see the difference between themselves and other creatures.

Coote and Ord (2015) argue that Genesis 3 and 4 want to show shame through the act of covering the genitals with leaves. Through this action, there is a shift in the mindset from the preconscious stage to the conscious stage. Shame makes people aware of their mistakes against God. Shame is felt after someone realises their mistake. Shame also moves to respond to guilt, namely admitting or hiding it. Shame also arises when a person is aware of differences with others. Pakpahan (2017) is of the view that the events in the garden of Eden represent one of the moral norms in the Bible. Adam and Eve lost their honour and felt ashamed for their wrongdoing.

Restoring spiritual shame

The ongoing contextualisation in Toraja has raised awareness that the church needs to use shame as a means or part of proclaiming the gospel, including raising the shame behind the implementation of the rite of confession of guilt and sin. In this case, the church positively manages shame and avoids Pattison’s (2003) worry that Christianity creates, exacerbates, ignores and exploits shame. On the contrary, Christianity needs to arouse and strengthen shame. Cultivating shame by highlighting its positive aspects can help Christians to avoid guilt and sin. Managing shame that is right, both culturally and spiritually religious, means restoring God’s relationship or peace with humans, fellow humans and the universe. Sanderan et al. (2022) argues that the Unnali Melo’ [peace] culture and the biblical teaching of loving one’s enemy can erase many sins and create peace.

Shame can positively be seen as an attempt to prevent further abuse. Social shame prevents people from performing humiliating acts, however difficult, if that is the only priority. Spiritual shame must be cultivated. This change in orientation needs to be emphasised in the context of Toraja culture.

Social shame and spiritual shame can be found in the rite, but the shift in meaning has caused social embarrassment to get attention. As a result, guilty people will only be alienated from the community but not appreciate their relationship with God. The perpetrator’s fear is only a fear of being ostracised in the society. On the other hand, the shame experienced by families, communities and their leaders is limited to efforts to restore honour in front of others. In this situation, the Christian belief needs to be emphasised that all people, both collectively and individually, need to realise themselves as valuable before God. Everyone should be ashamed before God because of their sin. Sin is an act of denying the nature of life as a creation that is given honour as the image and likeness of God. Humans need to restore shame with repentance and new life before him. Humans do God’s will freely and creatively as creatures in the new life.

By paying attention to spiritual shame, everyone interprets themselves as unworthy before God because they have sinned. But because of God’s love, they get forgiveness and reconciliation from him. Love is what needs to be a marker in interpreting a life that has been restored from shame. First of all, repentance must be accompanied by a holistic change. Everyone will try to control themselves so as not to commit offences because these will only cause shame. Spiritual shame moves people to realise the various values of life that God wants. These values will bring prosperity or a harmonious life for people. Spiritual shame goes beyond social shame, which is only limited to expecting people to obey normative rules.

The perpetrator is only placed as a convict if guilt is shown in a violation. As a result, a person pleads guilty and repents simply for fear of punishment. A person will stop his or her behaviour but leave problems related to his or her spirituality. With a holistic change, the honour of those confessing guilt and sin is also restored holistically. They will be accepted in society as God’s precious creations and before other creations. The perpetrator must be accepted back into society with a new status, namely as a person who has experienced atonement and forgiveness from God. If someone’s confession is only oriented to others, it only restores social shame. Pakpahan (2017) argues that efforts to restore social shame eliminate creativity and joy. Therefore, restoring spiritual shame, namely honour before God and reminding people to obey his will, is necessary.

Wijaya (2016) asserts that the new man puts off the old man (sin) and becomes a new man. The concept of a new man means acknowledging sin and shame as an old man and living in Christ as a new creation (Tacoy 2019). The incarnation of Jesus as a human took all sins, disgrace, shame and curses with his death on the cross (Maiaweng 2015).

Shame needs to be placed in the context of the cross and the resurrection of Christ, in that firstly, God was humiliated by humans when they sinned. Secondly, God showed solidarity in covering the shame experienced by humans towards him. Through Christ, God restored man’s honour as precious before him. Through Christ, humans receive forgiveness and atonement.

In the context of the rite of confession and sin in Toraja culture, the church can use these methods to prevent someone from sinning. In addition, by emphasising the spiritual side of shame, the church can use it to awaken the perpetrators and restore their honour as the image and likeness of God. The element of appreciation of God’s love and forgiveness should be emphasised more than simply remembering relationships with humans. Their honour is restored, and because of that, they can live a life in harmony with others, even with their fellow creatures

The problem that is still being grappled with is whether the sanction of the victim in the rite in Toraja is still needed to cover the shame caused by wrongdoing and sin. A radical reinterpretation of the meaning of the victim must be carried out. It is not the animal sacrifice that covers the shame, but Christ, who has become the atoning sacrifice, restored the shame. Animal sacrifices used in confessional rites and sins can only be interpreted as a symbol of gratitude for the love experienced from God, which is then further emphasised through a communal love meal as a form of celebration for the restoration of shame.


The results of this study indicate that for the Toraja people, the culture of shame affects all aspects of Toraja’s human life. Emotions of shame can be interpreted negatively or positively. Negatively, it can embarrass people, but positively, it can motivate them to live a good life with fear and reverence for God. In this study, it appears that spiritual shame is found in rituals, but they receive less attention. However, there is a tendency for the current practice of rites to prioritise social shame. Both should be presented together; it is even better if shifting attention from highlighting social shame to attention prioritises spiritual shame. It is this concept of spiritual shame that needs to be explored to bring someone to true repentance and, at the same time, motivate people to accept recognition and restore honour. Social shame and spiritual shame need to be developed together so that everyone is motivated to act rightly and avoid behaviours that can injure their honour, such as guilt and sin. By raising spiritual shame to the surface, then through the rite of confession of guilt and sin, it is hoped that it will lead to repentance and the return of honour in a holistic manner, that is, to restore human self-image as the image and likeness of God while at the same time restoring relationships with others.


We acknowledge the Institut Agama Kristen Negeri Toraja and the Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Jaffray Makassar, who supported the publication of this paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

F.P.R. was responsible for the conceptualisation, methodology, investigation, writing of the original draft, data curation, review and editing of the manuscript and funding acquisition; I.T.J.W. contributed to the methodology, writing of the original draft, validation, review and editing of the manuscript and supervision; D.R. contributed to the methodology, investigation, writing of the original draft, validation, resources, review and editing of the manuscript and supervision; R.P. contributed to conceptualisation, methodology, validation, resources, supervision and funding acquisition; Y.F.C. contributed to the methodology, formal analysis, project administration, software, data curation and resources.

Ethical considerations

Respondents signed a consent letter before participating in the study. Respondents voluntarily agreed to being interviewed and consented to the publication of the research results. The research complied with the Institut Agama Kristen Negeri Toraja ethical standards (No. 37/LPPM/IAKN-T/VI/2022).

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors and the publisher.


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