Shame is such a nasty word. It has been an unwelcome visitor in my life to varying degrees over the years. It is no respecter of persons and will latch on wherever we allow it. Shame is familiar to most of us, but I think few talk about it. Ironically, Christians don’t talk about it because we were set free from it when we “got saved”. Or were we? Or as I’ve heard it said, are we just “saved slaves”?
Kris Valloton caught my attention with a teaching recently (some of it was adapted from a teaching by Brene Brown) that said, conviction says “I did something wrong”, shame says “I am something wrong.” In other words, conviction is the Holy Spirit bringing revelation that we have sinned against God, in order to lovingly correct. But shame involves no love, and only brings more shame. Shame has no power to correct it only brings more death. Shame perpetuates the lie “I am not enough”.
All people, the teaching went on to say, have a desire to connect and feel like they belong. But shame causes people to recoil from connection. Shame whispers, “You won’t find value in me if you find out who I really am.” Many other lies people value are formed through the lens of shame like, “I’m a phony”, “I don’t have a good enough body”, “I’m not pretty enough”, and “I’m not spiritual enough”. What lies have affected your life?
I can remember as a little girl desperately wanting to be noticed, and yet at the same time I was timid and afraid of any attention that came my way. Somehow they would see “I wasn’t good at anything”, and “I had no special talents”. Those lies followed me into my teen years where I developed even more “not enough” lies. I wasn’t funny enough”, “I wasn’t athletic enough”, “I wasn’t outgoing enough”, I could go on and on. Later in my adults years alcohol became the wall I put up, or the mask. It was never a conscious thought, “I’ll drink this alcohol and I’ll be more like the person I wish I was”. But essentially that’s what I did. And yet later when the alcohol wore off I always thought, “this isn’t who I am”, because deep down I knew it wasn’t who Christ called me to be.
Now as I actively seek Christ, shame’s voice has softened, and it’s almost non-existent. It shows up as self-talk, saying “you wasted so many years, you’ll never get them back”. But when shame shows its nasty voice I recognize it much more quickly. One of the tools in spiritual warfare is the Word of God. These are tools God gives Believers to combat the lies of the enemy. Romans 8:1-2 says, “There is therefore no condemnation (or shame) for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” If we live for Jesus we no longer live under shame, self-doubt, or death. We are sons and daughters of God. As believers, we have to know that and throw the Word in the enemy’s face!
A great depiction in scripture of how shame can affect a person’s life is portrayed in the story of the woman at the well. This story is such a beautiful picture of how Jesus loves in the midst of our guilt and shame. The woman is drawing water from a well when Jesus approaches and asks for water. The woman is shocked Jesus would speak to her because 1) she is a Samaritan 2) she is a WOMAN. At this time Samaritans are viewed as the lowest of the low. And women? Even lower. But Jesus interacts with her anyway. He tells her about the “Living Water” that HE provides and then he “reads her mail”. He tells her that he knows about the five husbands she’s had and He knows that the man she currently lives with won’t even marry her. Ouch. Shame, shame, shame.
Nevertheless, a point to take notice of is women at this time couldn’t divorce their husbands. The woman didn’t leave her husbands, her husbands left her. She didn’t make the choice to divorce these men because she wasn’t allowed to make that choice in the culture at the time. It means the woman has been rejected and shamed over and over and over again. I can only imagine the pain that must have caused her. The walls she must have built around her heart to keep people from knowing she wasn’t what the culture around her values. Why? Because “they won’t like the real me.”
Yet, Jesus’ love is so good. He moves toward her and says, “I accept you. You are enough. You BELONG.” The man who “has told her everything she’s ever done” impacts her so profoundly, she immediately runs off to tell everyone she knows. (John 4:1-28)
Most of the shame that has haunted me involves my own choices. But many people, like the woman at the well, haven’t had much choice in what has caused them shame. Maybe you were the victim of sexual assault. Maybe you feel shame because of a divorce. Maybe the shame you feel is because of your own choices. No matter the reason, its time to get free!
I’m so thankful that God has and is setting me free from all kinds of lies and belief systems. But I want to be free from these lies for a purpose. Ultimately, that purpose is to have a significant role in seeing His Kingdom come. I don’t want to live life on the sidelines. And I don’t want you to live that way either! Whatever gifts and talents God has given me, I want to use them for His glory. Shame you no longer hold my ears or my heart captive!
If you need more resources for dealing with inner healing and shame, I highly recommended researching some of the books offered at: https://shop.bethel.com/collections/book-inner-healing-freedom?page=
5 Steps Toward God-Given Purpose can help you explore purpose for your life.
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