Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shame {Before, and After}

Shame {Before and After}


                        Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.(Webster) I lived in a world of shame for the last 22 years of my existence. It was a miserable life to live and it wasn’t until I gave my shame over to God that I experienced what a life of freedom felt like for the first time. I had heard people talk about a life of freedom but, at that point in my life, I could not even being to fathom what it felt like. I doubted that someone like me could ever experience freedom through Christ, but I have. It took a lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance but God met me right where I was and walked me through the journey from the darkness that enveloped me to the light of his freedom.

            Shame embodies five disastrous elements; Secrets, hatred, anxiety, mockery, and emptiness, that will destroy your life unless you break out of the shame mold your in. Secrets will kill, steal, and destroy you. I know this first hand because I, myself lived a secret life. ‘It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.’ (Ephesians 5:12) By not giving up our shame to God we allow Satan to hold us in bondage with the secrets we are carrying. Hatred, the second element that shame embodies, will take you down just as quickly as our secrets. Self-hatred is the ammunition that Satan will use to hold you back from what God has in store for you. I battled with self-hatred for many years. ‘For I know for good itself does not dwell in me, that is, my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.’ (Romans 7:18-19) Brene Brown talks about how shame drives two big tapes in our head; you’re never good enough, and who do you think you are? These two tapes are ones I replayed over and over again in my own head. When I finally got to the point that I was able to give my shame to the Lord he replaced those tapes with ones that built me up and played over and over again who I was to him. I no longer had to live with the self-hatred I felt towards myself because that self-hatred I realized was nailed to the cross and was no longer mine to hold on to. Anxiety, the third element shame embodies, effects approximately 40 million Americans or 18% of the adult population. ‘Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.’ (Proverbs 12:25) I lived with such debilitating anxiety that I could not be alone for extended periods of times, and was taking medication to get me through the day and don’t even get me started about night time. It wasn’t until I gave my shame over to the great counselor that I was able to spend time by myself, I no longer was dependent on medication to get through the day, and I for the first time that I can remember started sleeping through the night. The fourth element that shame embodies is mockery. ‘If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.’ (Proverbs 9:12) Brene Brown stated that shame is a web if unattainable, conflicting views of who we’re supposed to be. Shame stares us in the face every morning and reminds and makes fun of us because we’ll never be able to measure up to its unattainable standard. Shame is the one to cast the first stone, and offer up the first cruel comment to us. The final element shame embodies is emptiness. ‘Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also madness and folly, but I learned this, too, is chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18) The ability to hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive and empties us of everything we have, and that is exactly what shame does.

            Once we get to the point where are we are willing to surrender to God, and give him ALL of our shame no matter how deep, dark, and ugly it may be shame begins to morph itself into something different. It begins to change into something that God can use for His glory! I once heard a pastor say that the darker the night the greater His light shines, and God’s light comes from the least likely places and situations. My life was one that I never imagined could be used for anything good. I thought that I was forever to live a life of slavery bound to the shame and guilt I carried from all he years of intense sexual abuse I was forced to live through. However; it is true, God used the most unlikely candidates to glorify him and bring others to His great and glorious light. Shame begins to embody five new characteristics; security, healing, acceptance, maturity, and empathy. Security is something that I longed for, for many years. I wanted to no longer have to look over my shoulder everywhere I went, and I wanted to be in control of my own body. Once I let go of the shame that was cutting off my oxygen supply God began to breath into me His peace and security I so desperately needed. ‘Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph at their foes.’ (Psalm 112:8) I know it seems too good to be true but once we surrender to the Lord He will begin to pour out his peace and security out all over us. I still have times that I have to remind myself that I am safe, but I am really starting to believe it. I never imagined this would happen to someone like me. The second characteristic shame becomes is healing. ‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Psalm 147:3) This bible verse is one that I found very early in my recovery and clung to it with everything I had. I wanted God to heal my broken heart and bind my wounds up but I didn’t necessarily believe that it could happen to me. I doubted that God loved me enough or was powerful enough to close up everything that I had gone through, but He did. It took a lot of hard work, and I’m not done yet, but I am finally able to start expressing in words what happened to me. This step has been the hardest for me because my shame kept me silent. I feared no one would believe all of the trauma that I had survived, or that people would blame me. What I have learned is that this is just what Satan wants you to believe so that you will stay held captive to him. Once I learned that people would believe me and that no one blamed me I was able to break out of those chains that held me down and begin to run the race marked out for me from God. The third element shame becomes is acceptance. ‘For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead.’ (Romans 11:15) Acceptance is something that I still work through every day. I still struggle with accepting what really happened to me did, but I trust in the Lord and just keep taking steps forward. When you begin to grasp and understand what has happened to you, you are able to begin to see where God was in all of it, and able to start allowing him to heal those broken areas. Maturity is the forth characteristic that shame becomes once you release it. ‘Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ (James 1:4) When I began my recovery process my maturity began to increase as well. I started to see things that I was never able to see before. I was able to express my thoughts and feelings to others and I began to take their advice as simply that advice and not criticism. My faith began to mature as well. I began to submerse myself in God’s word and love, and began to apply it to my everyday life. The final characteristic it embodies is empathy. ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32) This has been the most rewards characteristic for me because I love helping others. Now that I have surrendered to giving up my shame I am able to help others in a way that I never could before. I can finally share with them my complete story with no fear of judgment and I can tell that I too have been through the same things they have. I am able to give back to those around me and share with them how God has completely lavished his love upon me and how they can have that too. It has been crazy to see how something Satan meant for darkness God has made light to share with others.

            The following quote is one that I found in the middle of my recovery and it has helped me to continue to persevere. I felt it was the perfect way to end.

            It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. {Theodore Roosevelt}

Shame Off Me

“Shame Off Me”


               Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God. (Jerm 3:25) Shame restrains you. It holds you back from the calling that God has upon your life. When we are active in our addictions they begin to layer us down with shame. We begin to drown in our shamefulness brought on by the sin of our addictions. When I was in my addictions I began to live a viscous cycle of relapse, excessive usage, and shame, never understanding why I constantly felt like I was drowning. I would use because I felt overwhelmed by my past failures or mistakes; however, after using these feelings were just multiplied and intensified.  Addiction starts with pride and grows with shame, and that is exactly what happened in my life.

               When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)  The middle of pride is “I”. The middle of sin is “I”. Pride says: “I don’t have a problem, I don’t need anyone, I can figure it out alone, and I don’t need God.” All of these above statements are ones that I said my very self.  I thought that I could handle life on my own and that I didn’t need anyone to help me. When people tried to help me I would push them away because my pride told me asking for help meant weakness and that I was a burden. Pride pushes everyone around you out, and most times when you finally realize that you do in fact need help, no one is around to be there for you.

               Living with shame is hard. Shame keeps you in bondage. You no longer can worship God the way that you want to because your hands are shackled. You don’t choose shame, it becomes you! This statement was very apparent in my life. I didn’t choose to take on shame, it was brought on by the actions of others; however, the shame took over me and it became me for a very long time. My actions showed the shame that I felt inside and I couldn’t seem to break out of it. I tried many treatment programs to no avail. I could never seem to just “get it together” or “keep it together.”

               Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:2) Jesus wasn’t ashamed to take our shame. He willingly took up our shame, pride, and sin so that we could have eternal life. He that knew no sin, became sin so that we could be free from our chains of slavery. As wonderful as the above statements are we must realize that just because Jesus took our shame doesn’t mean that it goes away. We have to choose to allow Jesus to use the key, that only He posses, to unlock our chains. This is where I, and many others fail. We have all the head knowledge we need; however, we never put it into action. We have to humble ourselves before the Lord and allow Him to do his job.

               I am the living one; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Rev 1:18)  There is no greater hell them living a life with shame that has us in shackles of all the things that we have done wrong in life. I remember in my own life waking up every day and the first thing that popped into my head was the very demons and memories that I had been trying to numb out. It was a miserable existence. It wasn’t until I released those memories over to the Lord that I was able to wake up and no longer be haunted by them. The one thing from this sermon that really spoke to me was when he defined the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is what you feel because of what you’ve done. Whereas shame is who you are because of what you’ve done. Guilt says you’ve messed up, shame says you’re a mess up! Guilt says you’ve made a mistake, shame says you are a mistake.

               Something that really helped me work through my shame is realizing that once I gave my shame over to the Lord I was a new creation. I no longer have to have guilt or shame over the things that I had done or the things that had been done to me, because I was new and the old had been washed away. Does that mean that I will never again think about it; no. What it means is that it will no longer have a hold on me to the point that I am operating in that vicious cycle of addiction. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23) Once Christ releases us from our bondage to shame we now become bound with Him! No matter where we run to Jesus will be right there with us. I remember a time in my life where I no longer wanted to be bound with Jesus and I went out to party to get away from the disaster that had become my life. I remember telling God that night that if I survived that I would know there was a bigger calling on my life. Even though I had turned my back on God that night and was going to do exactly what I wanted, He was still there watching over me and protecting me.

               When we know the truth of God, and what He has done for us we will no longer be ashamed. Our perspective will begin to change. I can now look back at my life and the things that I once was ashamed of I no longer am, because God has redeemed those areas. I understand why things were the way they were and why things went the way they did. I no longer have to beat myself up with shame for my actions because I understand why I made the decisions I did. There are still times when I struggle with this and start to put that guilt and shame on myself, but I am getting better at recognizing it and going back to God with the memory so that he can show me the truth of the matter. I just have to continue to rely on God and be open to his truth.