Shame is as old as Adam and Eve. They sniffed the garden flowers, yakked with the serpent, chewed the forbidden fruit, and oops! They realized they were naked! After their shocking discovery, the couple patched together leafy scivvies, and hid from God.
Sin and shame covered them simultaneously.
Have you ever been sucked into a shame spiral? Nasty stuff. Shame is a fear-based state accompanied by feelings of being unworthy and unlovable. You may feel powerless, abandoned, worthless. How do we become paralyzed by shame?
- We discount our strengths and abilities. “I’ll never amount to anything.”
- We obsess over our flaws. “I’m so fat! Hand me the Cheetos!”
- We judge ourselves by other people’s expectations. “My brother is the quarterback on the football team. I’m only the water boy. ”
- We can shame ourselves by confusing what we do with who we are. “I’m retired now. I was an executive. Now I’m just a drain on society.”
- Mean words from friends or family members damage our self-image and sabotage our ability to be intimate with God and others. “I really am the black sheep of the family.”
- The lies of Satan, the Accuser of God’s children, wants us to feel as distant from God as possible. He reminds us of failures, causes us to stumble and distracts us from the truth of how God sees us. “God could never love me or forgive me.”
How do you know if you struggle with shame? My husband was soaping up in the shower when I heard him cry, "Oh, no!" I ran to see what was amiss, and he remembered something embarrassing he had said in high school. In high school? Are you kidding? Ancient history. You may wonder if shame pervades your life or steals your happiness. Hear are a few symptoms:
- You are perfectionistic or legalistic, ashamed that you will never measure up.
- You are guarded and terrified that people will discover the “real you.”
- You criticize others to bolster your low self-esteem.
- You bury your pain in addictions like drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping and more.
- You avoid responsibility-low grades or poor job performance because you’ve “given up”.
- You don’t allow yourself to enjoy anything, because you don’t deserve to be blessed.
- You talk about yourself in negative ways.
The prodigal son clearly shows us the difference between guilt and shame. Starving and exhausted, he stumbled home to his loving father and cried,
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” Luke 15:21 NIV
This guy acted like a jerk. He demanded his inheritance, an inheritance he shouldn’t have received before his Dad’s death, he squandered his cash living large with wine and women, and he returned home with his tail between his legs.
Notice the two sentences. One reflects guilt. “Father, I have sinned against heaven (God) and against you. The other reflects shame. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Who said that? Certainly not his Dad. Daddy welcomed him with open arms, forgave him and celebrated with a barbecue.
I’ve always felt ugly. My little sis looked like Barbie. I thought I looked like a Cabbage Patch kid. My husband Roger spent most of our marriage complimenting me on how beautiful he thought I was. One sunny June morning on our tenth anniversary, I was brushing my molars, my hair still bundled in a wet towel. Roger walked in and said, “Julie, you are so gorgeous.” For the first time in a decade I smiled at my reflection in the mirror and replied, “Well, maybe I’m not that bad after all.” It took YEARS of my husband’s admiration to overcome my self-deprecation and shame. God wants to tell you every day that you are lovely to Him.
Focusing on God’s love for us can help us climb out of the shame spiral. Here are a few verses that will eliminate shame and help us to see ourselves as God sees us.
Satan wants us to feel like failures and dirty sinners. Feeling that way keeps us from confidently approaching God's throne and having an intimate relationship with Him! The blood of Jesus was shed so that we can confidently approach God and have an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father:
Hebrews 9:14, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
You need to stop thinking about your past failures. Your sin has been dealt with and washed away. Therefore, you are meditating on something that no longer exists! If your sins are in the depths of the sea, then why are you still obsessing over them?
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness."
Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus..."
Now that our past failures have been forgiven, we need to leave them there and press forward towards the things God has for us:
Philippines 3:13, "...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
Adam and Eve hid from God in their handmade leafy underwear. God took them, sacrificed an animal and gave them fur coats. Jesus gives us white robes instead of the dirty rags of disgrace.
Climb out of your shame spiral and receive God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
www.angriesout.com; www.tyndale.ca/counseling/issues/shame/; www.greatbiblestudy.com.
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