Over the years I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who have opened up and told me their secret failings, chronic struggles, and agonizing wounds. In moments away from eavesdropping ears or in email exchanges away from prying eyes, people have expressed their sense of being chained and constrained, and their desperation to break free.
There’s a good chance you experience shame if you’ve ever thought things like what they have said to me:
“I don’t measure up to other people’s expectations, not to mention God’s expectations.”
“I don’t like the real me, so should anyone else?”
“I act like I’ve got it all together, but beneath the polished surface I’m a phony and a fraud.”
“I may be smiling on the outside but dying on the inside.”
“I imagine God up there on his throne looking down on me with a disappointed look on his face.”
In my opinion, there are two kinds of shame: The kind we deserve and the kind we inherit.
The painful truth is we sometimes feel shame because we’ve done something shameful. I know that stings a bit, but it’s reality. We’ve done something that was wrong and violated God’s standard for us. We sinned against God, ourselves and others.
If a heart is to be changed, and therefore influence our actions, we must allow the conviction to prick our conscience and drive us to change. In situations where we feel the weight of our sins, shame is not an enemy but an ally, as strange as that may sound.
God created shame to serve as internal indicator that our lives are veering off track. This is a warning alarm that announces trouble or danger, a flashing signal that we are stumbling when we should be soaring.
The second kind of shame is that which is given to us – usually when we don’t deserve it.
Let’s face it, human emotions easily get tangled and twisted. If we could X-ray our feelings, they would probably look like a huge bowl of spaghetti or a fifty-car pileup on the highway. Since our emotions are rarely neat and tidy, it’s not surprising that lots of people feel unreasonable shame. In these cases, unhealthy feelings are distorted, exaggerated, and most of all untrue. Unjustified shame comes from many sources:
- Our Culture: the world telling us that we should be ashamed of this or that.
- Our Mis-Beliefs: we distort the truth God has given us into lies that make us feel far different than God intended.
- Our Parents: Our families – specifically our parents can affect us in ways like no one else on earth. Some of this is unjustly given to us and needs to be given to God to reconstruct.
- Our Self: If I am honest with myself, I am often the greatest source of my own shame. I know my secrets and don’t hesitate to self-deprecated often.
If this topic has touched a painful nerve, let me give you a dose of strong anesthetic. God never intended us to stay mired in muck of our mistakes. He sent Christ to forgive you and give you mercy. He certainly never wants us to experience false shame, and he wants us to seek healing for our justified shame fully and quickly so we can move forward in abundance. The good news is that shame can be wiped away by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the end of the day, shame is a fence around our life, not allowing the mercy, love and care of God to enter and make us whole. But you can be free. Step out of your shame stand in the light of Christ. For freedom he came to set you free. Let go of your shame and cling to Christ.