18 Oct SHAME
Horrible things can grow in the darkness – and no, I’m not talking about rot or mildew. I’m talking about shame, a soul-crushing emotion that I’m sure most, if not all, of us have experienced at some point in our lives. While shame is often interchanged with feelings like regret, remorse, or guilt, I would argue that it is altogether distinct and different. Shame can certainly grow out of these feelings; however, shame is unique in that it causes us to believe lies about ourselves. Shame can eat away at our identities – it tells us that what we did is who we are, and it convinces us that we are incapable of change. Shame is a deception from the enemy.
Shame never had a stronger hold on me than when I became a mother. After nine months of eager anticipation, I had this beautiful bundle of joy; she was mine, she was precious, she was perfect. But the joy that everyone told me I was supposed to have, felt fleeting at best. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was struggling with Postpartum Depression, but I had convinced myself that surely PPD wasn’t something that “someone like me” would ever deal with. Depression had never been part of my story before, so surely these were just “baby blues” – caused by adjusting to our new season of life and struggling to transition from working-wife to stay-at-home-mom. But as the weeks and months passed with little to no improvement in how I was feeling, deep shame began to set in. The lies that I began to believe were that I was a horrible mother and undeserving of this precious gift. I barely wanted to leave my little girl’s side for fear that she might be taken from me. I unknowingly began to pull away from my husband and friends, thinking that if I were to be truly honest about how I was feeling, they would judge me, disown me, maybe even send me to seek professional help. I tried my best to hide behind a mask that everything was okay, but eventually people started to see the cracks.
Brene Brown, a well-known author and speaker, has done extensive research on shame and vulnerability. She says, “Shame hates it when we reach out and share our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” Someone else once said, “What you can’t say owns you. What you hide controls you.” I deeply connect with these wise words. The shame I was trying to hide and keep a secret controlled everything, and instead of it going away, it only continued to grow. John 3:20-21 says, “For everyone who does evil things hates the light and avoids it, so that his actions won’t be exposed. But everyone who does what is true comes to the light, so that all may see that his actions are accomplished through God.”
I am so fortunate to attend a church where we are consistently encouraged and challenged to live authentically, to be vulnerable, and to bear one another’s burdens. I think it’s in our human nature to hide our shame – just look at Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:7-13)! Somehow, we believe that the disgrace we will endure is far greater than carrying the burden of shame. But as I started to share more and more of how and what I was feeling with those closest to me, the heavy burden of shame slowly began to lift. They didn’t judge, they didn’t condemn, they didn’t disown me. Instead they met me with love, grace, and understanding.
“Shame cannot survive being spoken and being met with empathy.” -Brene Brown
I don’t know what Ms. Brown’s religious beliefs are, but it’s interesting how many people, from all walks of life, have flocked to her words about shame and vulnerability. Yet the truth behind her words is not a new revelation, but is in fact spread across the pages of Scripture. Paul writes in Romans 8:1-2, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
God does not desire for us to live in shame and He has made provision, through Christ, so that we don’t have to. In 1 Peter 2:24 it says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we, removed from sins, might live for righteousness. ‘By His wounds you were healed.’” Peter is quoting directly from Isaiah 53, where we read that it pleased the Lord to crush Jesus and make Him a guilt offering – accomplishing the pleasure of the Lord, so that Jesus would justify many and carry their iniquities. Jesus bore our sin and shame so that we can now bear the image of God.
Our past does not define us, and our worth is not found in what we do, but in Whose we are. To battle shame – the half truths and deceptions of the enemy – we must not only bring our shame into the light through confession, but we must remind ourselves of Whose image we were created to bear, and who He says we are:
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
John writes in 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
And Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9,“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Isn’t it interesting that we were called out of darkness into light? Darkness is always overcome by the Light. When we allow His light to shine into our darkness – even those deep, well-hidden corners that we think the light cannot possibly reach – we find healing. We find restoration. We find the antidote to our shame.
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”