“Shelley Renee!” My mother would say about three octaves higher than normal. This familiar sound often sent me into a tailspin. What did I do now? I knew this spelled trouble. “Shame on you! You should know better. Don’t smack at the table. Sit up straight. Share with your sister. ”
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do anything right? Like you wanted to run and hide?
That’s how shame affects us. Many people confuse shame with guilt, but they are two different things. Guilt says you made a mistake while shame screams you are a mistake.
I unknowingly carried shame well into my adult years. Like a hermit crab buried deep within its shell, my growth stunted. Then I had a life-changing encounter with Jesus that reversed the way I saw myself, God and others. Although I wasn’t a terribly rebellious child, I wasn’t an angel either. The biggest way I acted out and caused my parents grief came in the form of talking back—in repressed anger. I sought to protect myself by blaming and manipulating others. Eventually, this played out in all my relationships.
I thought I had to perform well to be loved. So, I worked hard to please my parents. I made good grades, got a college degree, a husband, a job and had two beautiful kids. From the world’s standard, I was an American success but deep down I was a mess. I was swallowed up in people-pleasing and felt I didn’t meet the expectations of others. I thought I was a failure.
Finally, I had enough. I was miserable. I wanted to be free from the shame robbing me of the life God intended for me. My freedom journey began when a friend of mine suggested I meditate on scripture about who God says I am and journal what I heard Him reveal to my heart.
What happened next changed my life. I read Ephesians 1:4-6 through different eyes. I inserted my name in the place of the general pronoun, us. “Before the creation of the world, God chose me through Christ to be holy and perfect in His presence. Because of His love for me he had already decided to adopt me through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this so that the kindness He had given me in His dear Son would be praised and given glory.”
I continued to seek the Lord’s heart for me and He whispered, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, you are beautiful! My darling, everything about you is beautiful, and there is nothing at all wrong with you. My sister, my bride, you have thrilled my heart” (Song of Songs 4:1, 7, 9). Woah! A veil had been lifted from my eyes, and I knew I was created first and foremost for God’s pleasure and He fully accepted me because of Jesus. He took my shame and rejection and gave me His glory! I am the crown of God’s creation and so are you. He saved the best for last—humanity. After God completed all creation, He looked at it and declared it all good! You are not a mistake but an intentional vessel of His glory. You were created to shine.
Five simple steps to help you break free of shame:
- Meet with Jesus regularly. Find a quiet place free of distractions and ask Him what He likes most about you.
- Verbally disagree with the lies you have believed about yourself, God and others.
- Ponder and pray until truth penetrates you mind and heart.
- Verbally agree with God about who you are and what you can do.
- Keep a journal. Write down what God says and review it regularly.