Shame – Part 1
Shame. Your cheeks get hot, your stomach drops, you feel like the whole world is looking at you. You are exposed. Ewe. Even the word isn’t super fun to say. Shame in all its glory can be brutal. It is one of the greatest tools that the enemy uses to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Kill our kindness towards ourselves, steal our ability to experience love and joy, and can destruct relationships like no other. Aren’t you so pumped to be reading about it?! It’s the other “s” word that no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole.
We have all felt it, acted on it, wrestled with thoughts stemming from it. I oftentimes tell clients that the only thing that grows in the dark is fear and shame. And if we really boil it down shame is rooted in fear. Fear of being seen and others not liking or accepting what is seen. Fear that if anyone really knew what I did/thought/said that they would run for the hills. Or worse stick around and we would pay for it by either our perception of constant judgment and wondering what in the world they are thinking of us OR being treated by others in a way that is fueled by shame. Fear that we, at our core, are not enough, not okay, not loveable. Sounds delightful, right?
As one of the key instruments of the enemy, it can wreak havoc internally. If he can keep someone hidden, festering in the dark, then there is absolutely no freedom in that. And the last thing the enemy wants is us experiencing and living out our freedom in Christ. Shame, remorse, and embarrassment are oftentimes intertwined, confusing, and can be hard to distinguish the role they each play.
We have all been there. Making a grand entrance by loudly tripping through the doorway of a restaurant hoping everyone was too busy enjoying their meal to notice, only to look up and see all eyes on you. Embarrassment. When we feel embarrassed we are experiencing self-consciousness followed by some distress. Remorse, in its healthy function, is feeling icky first then holding what we did/experienced next to who we are and recognizing that it doesn’t fit. Believing that choice/experience isn’t congruent to who we are and therefore it doesn’t sit right. In recognizing it doesn’t fit we are then able to stand in truth and not live in the thoughts and feelings of remorse. Shame happens when we believe it fits and therefore let the choice/experience (and lies that follow suit) say more about us than what God says about us and has done for us. Fear that who we are at our core is not good. Shame would tell me that I can’t even walk through a doorway correctly without making a fool of myself and that I am a constant screw up.
Remember earlier when I said shame was the other “s” word that no one wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole? Christ touched it. He more than touched it. He erased it. Demolished it. Our identity in Him is blameless, shameless, and secure. For we are MORE than conquerors (Romans 8:37)! Shame has NO PLACE to dwell in the heart of a child of God. If this is true, and it for dang sure is, then how come we sometimes experience thoughts and feelings of shame and watch our children wrestle with them too? I like to think we come by it honestly. The very first act Adam and Eve made once choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to hide themselves. Genesis 3:10 says “And he said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” For the first time, they felt shame. They felt fear. Felt exposed, vulnerable, and unacceptable. We, our children included, have all been there. Vulnerable and exposed. When caught up in the lies and waves of emotions we can find ourselves fearful that it is actually true.
The beautiful thing is that being vulnerable and exposed in the environment of love and grace is Gods heart for each and every one of us. To be fully seen and be fully loved. To be known and be free. To be heard and be accepted. As Doug and Janet Newberry say, “it is good to be me here with you.” Good to be me because God says I am good. Good to be me because my environment is one that knows my goodness is rooted firmly in Christ. A place where who I am is based on Whose I am, not what I have done. An environment of love and grace. The very opposite of shame, fear, and darkness is love, vulnerability, and freedom in Christ. Living in the light.
As a parent walking in New Covenant truth you have established and are continuing to foster an environment where it is good to be me here with you. Oftentimes it can get sticky to sort all of this out in ourselves and with our children. In order to combat shame, we want our kids to feel safe to be vulnerable with us. To mess up and know they have a soft place to land. To trust us and have the freedom to learn to trust God. Our reactions and responses to things greatly shapes their ability to do this. Giving them pieces of our story, sharing our current struggles or moments of weakness, apologizing, owning our wrongs, verbalizing that our/their mistakes is not who we are and how our heart wants to act, and asking for forgiveness.
Parenting is a huge refiner of us parents. Never be afraid to allow your children to see you being refined. Grow and lean into God more and more with them. So first we must trust God with our own thoughts and feelings of shame and then lead them to do the same. Perfect love, the very love that dwells within you, drives out all fear (1 John 4:18). Drives out fear and invites freedom. Freedom to know we won’t always get it right and neither will our children, but for the truth that it is good to be me here with God remaining the same.