“Fear was really my worst enemy, until I realized that it had a big brother named Shame.”
Her simple comment started to change the way I look at shame, fear, and guilt. Now I see Shame and Guilt as siblings. Guilt can be difficult, but it’s a good thing, because you learn from it. Shame, on the other hand, was the family member who decided to wreak havoc on everyone. And when he teams up with his close friend, Lies, they form a tag team that makes things even worse.
When you think about doing something important, Lies comes up and tells you not to bother, because you can’t do it anyway. And even if you’re strong enough to push Lies aside, Shame reinforces his words by saying you’ve already tried it and failed, so you’re nothing but a failure, fake or hypocrit. They’re like best friends who validate each other, meanwhile casting you into a pool of darkness and isolation.
Shame and Guilt may be siblings, but they work in different ways. When you do something you probably shouldn’t have, Guilt comes along and says, “Yes, you made a bad decision, but now you have the opportunity to make things right.” When Shame walks in, he has a different take. He tells you that you made a mistake because you’re a bad person who isn’t capable of doing better. Then Lies amplifies his words by telling you that it’s impossible for you to change, or that things are never going to get better.
It’s okay to spend time with Guilt. He helps us own up to what we’ve done, make amends for it, and move along. We may not like having him around, but like a tough teacher or a demanding personal trainer, what he puts us through will make us a better person.
Shame and Lies have the opposite effect. They diminish us and send us into a downward spiral with the goal of destroying our self-worth. They make us forget that God created us for a purpose and to experience the joy of life. They try to speak louder than the truth that we have value, that there is purpose in our pain, and that we are not the sum of our mistakes. Their voices try to silence the truth of God’s word that says forgiveness abounds, that His love never waivers, and His grace is sufficient. Shame and Lies’ impact are even broader. They interfere with our ability to love ourselves and they make it difficult for us to fully love those around us. The deeper you swim in Shame’s pool, the harder it becomes for you to see your value as a person, so you’ll be tempted to engage in destructive behaviors, which only strengthen Shame’s hold on you. It is a vicious cycle that can lead to ruin if we do not take the time to ground our thoughts, listen for truth, and take courageous steps to freedom that comes from becoming vulnerable and sharing our stories.
Living free of shame and lies takes time, but it is possible with intentional effort, truth spoken, and grace offered. You have purpose, and that purpose is not to struggle with the impact of shame your whole life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by shame, we can help you push him out of your life. Our counselors can share strategies that will help you process what you’re feeling and move in a more positive direction. Call us today.
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