Confronting and Overcoming SHAME
Misty is a recovering hard core drug addict. She had one child who was removed from her home when he was about 9 months old. Misty has not seen her baby boy since and has given up custody of her only son. I sat in a small group with Misty as she was pouring out her soul, her story.
There was much more to her account that may seem a bit extreme to some of us: she had a deeply troubled childhood and tumultuous teenage years, a failed marriage, suicide attempts, embezzlement, lies, cheating, time in jail.... The bag of shame she carried on her back was more than she could bear.
Although at this point she knew God had forgiven her, declared her innocent, and set her free from her addictions and toxic mindsets, she struggled to forgive herself. She was wracked with personal angst, shame, and self-debasement. She felt painfully disappointed with herself. She felt worthless, even condemned especially for hurting and abandoning her only child.
Guilt says: "What I did was wrong." Shame says: "I am what's wrong."
The opposite of guilt is innocence. Misty understood the deep spiritual truth that she had been declared innocent and that Jesus Christ bore the guilt of her sins on His back. He paid the price (death) her sins deserved. This love and grace changed her life! At long last she found hope.
Even still, as the years went by, she could not shake her deep sense of shame. She could not forgive herself.
Like Misty, I have struggled with deep feelings of shame and regret. I hated myself for some choices I have made in my life. Oh, I am beyond what others may think about me and my choices (for the most part). And my feet are planted firmly in what God says about me (for the most part). I know He loves me, and for nearly two decades, I have discovered what my identity in Christ really means. My life changed completely when I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. I found purpose and meaning for my life, an internal joy and sense of gratitude and hope like never before.
But sadly, the shame lingered.
I kept listening to the same broken record: a cacophony of music with self-defeating lyrics and offbeat melodies about
what I thought about myself.
Recently I was listening to a Tim Keller sermon called "Praying Our Guilt." His message suggested that overcoming shame required the individual to say, "I don't care what I think about me."
Let that sink in for a second.
Folks who struggle with shame may say things to themselves like: I deserve all this shame. I am defective. I am beyond repair. I dislike myself. I hate what I did. I abhor the things I said. I detest my own stupidity. If only I could go back...If only I hadn't...If only this hadn't happened to me...there is something wrong with me. I am flawed, not enough. I don't have what it takes. I'm just not good enough. I am a disappointment as a person. I'm humiliated and unworthy. Basically, I'm worthless.
Shame exhausts us. It pierces and pricks our hearts constantly. Shame gives us a cover-up, a warm blanket that "justifies" our fearful behavior and inertia. Shame keeps us inactive and gives us an excuse not to be vulnerable, transparent, and honest.
In the TK message, he declared the opposite of shame to be GLORY.
What, then, is the key then to confronting and overcoming shame?
It's to completely dismiss and disregard what you think about yourself.
You choose to stop glorifying your shame-filled thoughts.
You're beyond what the world says and thinks about you. After all, When you broke the "rules," you made amends to the best of your ability.
You know what God says about you. You are on a hope-filled journey to fully understand your innate worth as a human, your purpose for walking this earth. You've accepted God's mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace.
Now it is time to forgive yourself and let go of the shame you hold on to. Look up, not inward.
Just as we are not to march to the beat of what someone else thinks about us, in this way, we can also learn to disregard what WE SAY AND THINK ABOUT OURSELVES.
When you have those shame-filled thoughts erupting in your mind, just say, "NO. STOP. I NO LONGER CARE WHAT YOU THINK, SELF." Then move on.
Essentially, it was time for Misty to throw up her hand up to herself and say: "I don't care what you think, Misty, about yourself and any bags of shame and regret you've thrown over your back and keep lugging around. Step into the Truth. Glorify God and God alone."
Is it as easy as that?
Maybe. At least this offers us a new battle plan; one that over time may lead to peace and acceptance for who we were and are. We are called to stand and resist. We walk away from self-condemnation EVERY | SINGLE | TIME it rears its ugly head.
We learn to defeat toxic thinking that positions our own thoughts in higher esteem that God's Truth, that glorifies our past poor decisions and what we think about ourselves instead of glorifying the God who not only declared us innocent but who gave us LIFE and PURPOSE and MEANING.
What do you think, friend? Can you muster the courage to let go of the shame that so arrests you? Can you boldly silence your own condemning thoughts about who you are and what you think and instead be determined to esteem higher the God who created your SELF in the first place?
Stop caring about what you think. Say no to all shame-based thoughts. Step into healing. Step into Truth. Choose 2 Think in new ways. And get going with your life! Change is possible!
I'm quite certain that if you make a habit of not caring what you think about yourself, over time the bags of shame you have carried will lose their weight. They will fall to the wayside. You will truly be free at long last. It's time to run, friend! Trust me, you are not alone in this journey to let go of shame once and for all.
...let us also lay aside every encumbrance
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You might really be interested in the ARMOR FOR EVERY THOUGHT exercise/worksheet. You can pick apart shame one thought at a time if you'd like -- this may offer you another layer of the healing you're seeking.
May God abundantly bless you on your journey!
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