Shame is rampant in the Church. It gets talked about sometimes but it has more to do with what we’ve done than who we are. There’s a difference between the two.
Shame is usually the driving force behind our coming to a church service in the first place. And no matter how much we listen to sermons or pray, it seems that there’s always a tinge of shame lingering in the back of our soul, which can greatly upset our spiritual equilibrium. We may do or say something wrong that stirs it up anew, or at least the devil reminds us of something we did years ago. He even turns up the screws by telling us that it’s who we really are.
Those whispering voices in our soul become motivators for our shame to stick around. “Who do you think you are?!” That voice shows up when we worship, or pray, or when we are launching into some kind of ministry. “You’re going to turn out just like your dad…your mom!” or like someone else who’s an embarrassment to the family. Sometimes those shame buttons are pushed by the authority in our lives usually because they think it will motivate us to shift direction. “Here’s what you did…didn’t do…not doing!” And how about the zinger, “You need to be more like Jesus!” That would be an appropriate place to say duh. The devil knows all the hot buttons for pressure on us that comes from shame.
There is such a thing as healthy shame. Actually, it looks more like guilt, which we feel when we do something wrong. If we never feel any kind of shame, we may be out of touch with our true self. Shame protects us from doing stupid stuff. We know who we ought to be and not this actual self that manifests something in us that we’re not proud of. So, some measure of shame is not entirely bad; we need to feel guilt when we’ve done something wrong. It means the conscience is working like it’s supposed to! If shame continues to linger although we’ve put every wrong behavior we can think of on the altar for Jesus to cover it, then it’s unhealthy shame that is plaguing us. It is unhealthy because it accuses us for who we are. That kind of shame can keep us from advancing in maturity and growth.
Unhealthy shame is rooted in deceit; bad people deceive themselves when they feel virtuous and good people deceive themselves when they feel worse than they are. Both can be far from reality. Unhealthy shame for the believer is a false message from our false self-image of what we ought to be usually inspired by what others think or maybe what we think they’re thinking about us. It exaggerates our faults, and it never seems to go away. It makes us say the dumbest things sometimes.
A collective cry is coming up from the Church: Am I blocking God from fulfilling all of His promises to me? The answer is NO! In fact, He gave you those promises because He foresaw the outcome of your life in spite of where you are right now. God always sees us according to our potential. Then you might ask, “But if I’m flawed, how or why would He fulfill them?” Do you not think that God knows His own power to change you over a period of time? If changes occur quickly, they’re less likely to stay with us.
We can usually trace shame back to our fear of abandonment and rejection, unworthiness, and generally being unacceptable. This is left over from our orphan condition before the Lord found us. The experience of being accepted is the beginning of healing for the feeling of being unacceptable. This is not the same as forgiving yourself. This is the definition of grace…it’s the gift of being accepted before we become acceptable. God doesn’t weigh or measure how much goodness or spirituality you have, He chooses to observe your journey. He is looking for faith on the earth despite what our lives look like.
If you do something wrong, take ownership of it. 1Jn.1:9 tells us, “If we confess our faults to one another, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Do this and He will do that. 1 Pet.5:7 also instructs us, “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Of course, it also refers to any care we have concerning shame. He cares about what you’re feeling and how you see yourself. His view is better than yours though. But you can’t give Him something if you don’t own it. Explaining away your shame and mistake won’t solve anything. It just adds to the heap of junk already laying heavy on your soul. If you’ve wronged someone, go make it right, then give it to the Lord.
Choose to forgive those who shamed you. It doesn’t help anyone including yourself if you constantly rehearse what someone said or did to you. The enemy loves to make it about the other person so you will stay in a place of shame and trauma. Until it is cast at the feet of Jesus once and for all time, you are racked with shame every time you see or even think of that person(s). Trauma can keep some people in a rut, a bad place, and they don’t get out of it until there is a change of mind about what happened. You need to redefine what happened and try to see it as God sees it. Remember, He also loves the person who wronged you. Unforgiveness and passing judgment on others can be the worst road blocks to your healing. Forgive and be thankful. Don’t allow your thoughts to be carried away anymore by looking back on the past – there is no end to that. But choosing to look forward with thankfulness will pave a new road for you that has endless possibilities.