While growing up I can recall times when I heard the phrase “Shame on you” or “You should be ashamed of yourself” while being scolded for some type of misbehavior I had committed. I do not believe that my parents and grandma actually wanted to place shame upon me, they just wanted me to feel bad enough about my wrong so that I wouldn’t do it again. When I was younger though I didn’t quite understand what shame was and how it should affect me.
The first night I remember feeling shame was at an abstinence rally I went to when I was 16 years old. I had just become a Christian a few months prior to this rally after living in a period of being a sexually active teen. Up until that night I was walking in the joy of being a child of God! Let me preface all of this with saying, I am for abstinence, don’t be confused.
The night at the rally the guest speaker was encouraging each student to choose abstinence because it was God’s plan that would bless each person there and they listed all of the blessings. I enjoyed hearing the blessings and knew God had a special plan for me as well. Towards the end of the talk the speaker used a beautifully wrapped gift as an analogy for virginity. He then asked a student to come up on the stage and unwrap the gift. After this happened the speaker then asked another student to come up on stage and asked if they wanted the unwrapped gift, the student replied, “No.” The speaker then said, “Virginity is a gift that can only be unwrapped once and nobody wants an unwrapped gift.”
So I was the unwrapped gift that nobody would want. This was a crushing blow to my heart and that night was the first time I felt shame. That night I began living in the shame of my past and became a captive to my past. I no longer felt like I was a forgiven child of God, I believed that I was bad and unworthy.
In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr. Brene Brown says:
...the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” and “I did something bad.” Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad.
When you do something you know is wrong and then feel compelled to ask for forgiveness, that is guilt. Guilt is meant to help you recognize your sin and bring you to the point of dealing with the sin and seeking forgiveness. Shame holds your sins over your head, imprisoning you so that you cannot move on. Shame is a lie that robs you of life and continually reminds you of your failure. Shame not only points out what you have done wrong, but it also says, “This is who you are; this is who you will always be.” God convicted me of my sin a few months prior to the first abstinence rally, but condemnation and shame caused me to believe that every part of me was bad.
I’m not saying I saw myself as an evil person. I didn’t think I was that kind of bad. Instead, I equated myself to food that had gone bad. When food has gone bad, it is no longer able to serve its purpose. You throw it out because the smell is horrible, and you can’t imagine eating something that disgusting. I felt like I was no longer good; I had expired and no one would choose me because I had gone bad. I was no longer worthy to be loved, I was inadequate, I was disgusting.
Dr. Brown further explains shame very accurately in her book, Daring Greatly:
First, shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging… is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame is the fear of disconnection－it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection… Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
Good people can unknowingly use shame as behavior control. That night at the rally, I believe that the speaker was using shame to control behavior. Let me explain. Yes, the speaker was trying to help students see that abstinence is the best choice but I believe that by stirring up the though “nobody want’s an unwrapped gift” caused students to choose abstinence because they didn’t want to feel shame. They didn’t want to feel unworthy or flawed. They had a fear of being shamed. Not being shamed was their motivator to not have sex before marriage. And for those who were like me, we just began to feel flawed and unworthy.
Romans 8:1-2 (NASB) says: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Shame and condemnation is not how God works, shame is how satan our enemy works. God does not hold shame over our heads to keep us from making the wrong choices. Furthermore, God doesn’t hold our failures over our head to “put us in our place.” Satan uses shame to keep us from becoming who God wants us to be and to keep us in bondage to our past. God uses love as the motivator to help His children make the right choices. God loves every one of His children with an everlasting love, this love does not fizzle and its not conditional. He loves us with no boundaries so that we would chose Him and His ways. For His ways are better than our ways.
From the beginning of creation God gave Adam and Eve a choice, they could either obey Him and not eat of the tree of good and evil or disobey. God could have created the garden of Eden without a tree, but if He did, He would be controlling Adam and Eve’s choices. Instead, God gave Adam and Eve freedom of choice, so that they would chose to obey God out of their love for Him. Jesus died on the cross for you and me so that we would know how deep and wide and high His love is for His children. Jesus died to set us free from all of our sin. Jesus also died so that when we are tempted to sin we would choose to not sin because we don’t want to hurt the heart of the one who loves us so deeply. If we do sin, then God also shows His love by keeping His arms open and ready to receive His children back unto Himself. If you don’t believe me, read Luke 15:11-32.
This is part of my story, but what is yours? Has shame been making you a captive to your past? Is shame telling you that you are unworthy of God and His love? Is shame telling you that there is no way God could ever use you or change you? Is shame telling you that you are bad and flawed and that will never change? That is not what God says,
Galatians 5:1 (NASB) says: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Christ died for your freedom from sin and shame. If you continue to let shame be your behavior control then you will continue to live in bondage to believing that you are bad and unworthy. God does not hold your past over your head condemning you. God want’s His children to live in freedom from their past and to know their worth in Him. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12 NASB) If you have Christ living in you, you are a worthy new creation that He deeply loves. Your past is not your identity. Your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. From this point on chose today to begin to believe what God says about you and not what shame says. Choose today to no longer let shame be a behavior control for you but to let your love for God be the motivator for good choices. You might have had a past, but your past does not dictate the future, let God dictate your future.
*I would love to hear from you. If you would like for me to pray for you or if you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. Be blessed my friend!*