What a Shame

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What a Shame
Display of Word "Shame" in Bold LettersHave you ever stopped and considered how much shame is in your life? I’m not talking about guilt, which is feeling bad when you do something wrong. I’m talking about shame. Shame means that you feel wrong. The things you do, say, and feel are just wrong. Do you ever have a voice pop up every once in a while and say things like, “You really shouldn’t feel this way,” “You really should have it all together,” “I can’t believe how selfish you’re being,” “You are just pathetic.” Maybe the voice criticizes you. Maybe it is downright mean. Or maybe it just won’t let you feel sad or angry about anything. My friends, this is what we call shame, and it’s one of the biggest hindrances to healing.

Part of my shame is tied to my faith. The shame says things like, “You just never read your Bible enough,” “I can’t believe you zoned that for that entire sermon,” “You don’t pray right,” “You’re not even in a Bible study,” “Have you ever actually talked to someone about Jesus?” “You really don’t have it together at all do you?” Over the past few years, I have listened to this shame, believed it, and let it mold my relationship with Jesus. I believed that I just was not enough and that my best efforts were tainted by my inadequacies.
Shame was slowly distancing me from God, the way it distances us from other relationships. It wants us to isolate and believe the lie that we are not good enough. The only way to truly break through shame is to be vulnerable and honest about who we are. So that’s what I did.
I sat down and told God everything I was feeling. I yelled. I screamed. I sobbed. I declared my anger. I recounted all of the frustrations at my life. I mourned for the deep longing I had to be with Him again but how I felt so far away.
This, in fact, is what many of the Psalms in essence are. There are lamentations. The psalmist in Psalm 88 declares, “Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me….my companions have become darkness,” (v.16-18, ESV). Even David, the man after God’s own heart, is so angry with God that he says in Psalm 39, “Look away from me, that I may smile again before I depart and am no more!” (v.13, ESV). Time and time again there are accounts of people declaring their painful and angry emotional state to God.
But God did not rebuke David or the psalmist for praying in this way. Taking their lead, I put away all my shame. I prayed from my heart and declared my deepest anguish. After about an hour, I felt relief. The burden of shame I had carried was emptied. God and I had an honest conversation about my feelings, my sorrows, my pain. Every time I pray this way, I become more deeply aware of His love for me. His longing to know me and comfort me. That I am His very precious child and that shame has no place in our bond.
I encourage you to look at the shame in your own life. What is it saying? From where does it stem? Be curious about who you are and how your shame is holding you back. Then, talk to someone- a friend, a spouse, a therapist, God. Talk honestly about your feelings, pain and experiences. Try doing this without using the word “should.” Let go of the burden of perfectionism. Let go of expectations. Accept God’s unconditional love and live abundantly.
– Michelle Hitchcock