I have proposed that it can be helpful, when determining the source of your feelings, to ask: does this make me want to run to God or away from God? If the source of your emotion causes you to bury your head in darkness, I humbly beseech you to venture unto His feet and ask Him to reveal the deep inner secrets that oppress your soul.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
The Voice of Shame
Do any of these ideas sound familiar?
- I can’t do anything right; I am a failure.
- I am worthless. There is nothing good about me.
- If people only knew the real me, they wouldn’t even want to be around me.
- God must think I am horrible.
- I always say the wrong thing.
- I can’t voice any of my needs or desires. . .most of them are ungodly, anyway.
- I don’t deserve anything nice.
- No matter what I do, I am still selfish and bad inside.
Most of these negative beliefs emerge from a deep sense of imperfection. The drive for perfection I believe comes, in part, by a good desire to live righteously and to. . .be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matt. 5 Some of us are inclined to have a pleasing nature, which can slip into idolatry as we seek the approval of others over God.
When I struggled with depression, the overwhelming sense in my mind was “It’s not that I make mistakes; its that I am a mistake!” I firmly believed the world would have been a better place and that my family would have been happier, if I had never been born. More than anyone I could see my own shortcomings. My “failures” loomed like towering, smothering giants, bellowing smoke and fire. They weighed upon me like a death sentence.
The Voice of Truth
For those who have been raised in shame-based families, a crucial element to healing is learning to replace these lies with truth from God’s word. What does He have to say?
One of the most precise passages addressing this is found in Romans 8. . .There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Meditate upon this verse, for truly Christ has come to set us free from the bondage of sin and death. What is more deathly than shame? It undermines everything within our hearts and renders us less effective for the kingdom.
Marilyn J. Sorensen, Ph.D., author of “Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem”, writes:
“Early in life, individuals develop an internalized view of themselves as adequate or inadequate within the world,” she said. “Children who are continually criticized, severely punished, neglected, abandoned, or in other ways abused or mistreated get the message that they do not ‘fit’ in the world — that they are inadequate, inferior or unworthy.”
These feelings of inferiority are the genesis of low self-esteem, Sorenson says.
“Individuals with low self-esteem become overly sensitive and fearful in many situations,” she said. “They are afraid they won’t know the rules or that they’ve blundered, misspoken or acted in ways others might consider inappropriate. Or they might perceive that others reject or are critical of them.”
Once low self-esteem is formed, the person becomes hypersensitive — they experience “self-esteem attacks” that take the form of embarrassment or shame, Sorenson adds.
“Unlike guilt — which is the feeling of doing something wrong,” she said, “shame is the feeling of being something wrong. When a person experiences shame, they feel ‘there is something basically wrong with me.'”
Consider the implications of this.
For a woman to spend her life feeling rejected, inferior, unworthy, inadequate, and a blight on the face of the earth. . .how indescribably sad! Unfortunately, it is all too common. In my humble opinion, if the enemy can keep a woman shamed–he has done his work. A condemned woman, tortured by her own thoughts and memories and messages she received throughout her life has no will to live. It can be a challenge merely to rise in the morning, much less smile and be a shining light within the darkness.
It is not that she will not try. Oh, she will. . .fatigued, plagued with self-doubt, and summoning every ounce of motivation, she will burst forth and try to prove invaluable to those around her so she can find a sense of satisfaction and purpose in life. Sheer desperation, hunger for acceptance and approval, and a frenzied effort of doing will keep her spinning in a vicious cycle. . .further compounding shame as mistakes glare her in the face when she fails.
To this woman Jesus extends a restraining hand. Come to Me, He pleads. I will give you rest.
There lies before us a choice. Do we want to listen to the old messages of condemnation, or to the gentle voice of the Son of God? Healing lies within His blood-stained hands.
I believe that each time a shaming lie pops into our mind, it is essential to choose then and there what we will believe. It is re-training, in a sense; replacing grave errors with truth. Because of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. . .we can approach the throne of grace with boldness for the help we need to overcome this battle.
My exhortation to you is to be gentle to yourself. Do not grow impatient as you learn to walk a new way. Take every moment by moment, and pray without ceasing. Oh, dear one. . .I pray that you will know the cleansing, healing mercy and grace that the Father offers! To partake of His grace is the most precious gift; for it bypasses your doing, and warmly embraces your being! This exquisite gift brings joy and life and freedom from the subtle roots of shame that oppress! This is His answer for a weary, burdened soul seeking relief.
I strongly recommend “Released from Shame: Moving Beyond the Pain of the Past” by Sandra D. Wilson.