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}

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