When Adam and Eve sinned, shame first entered the world. One moment they are enjoying the garden and the company of their Creator, then they fall into temptation and into sin. When God comes to commune with them, they hide. They realize they are naked and shame overcomes them. Although disconcerting, this is the good kind of shame, “redemptive shame.” This brings about pain or conviction, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that says you’ve fallen short of God’s plan; it’s not ok, it needs to be fixed. However, there is another kind of shame that is toxic and strikes at the core of our being. It is often caused by the way people treat us, react to us, accept us. It deflates confidence, crushes the spirit and destroys relationships. It can lead to rage, addiction, depression, even suicide. This shame weighs you down with the feeling that you don’t measure up, you are not who you were meant to be. It doesn’t imply that you have a flaw or failing, but rather that you are flawed and a failure. Shame separates and isolates us from God and others, causing despair and loneliness. Satan uses shame to hurt us; he torments us with what happened in the past. But God wants to heal us and he will use our worst hurt and shame for his glory. The truth is, you are not what you’ve done; you are who God says you are. He can make a shame-filled life into something beautiful!
Ec 3:11; Ge 2:25, 3:7-8; Js 4:17; 2 Co 10:3-5; Ro 8:28; Jb 11:13-16
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ec 3:11) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Co 10:5) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Ro 8:28)
Shame distorts how we see ourselves, much like a fun house mirror distorts our image. If we really believed we look as we appear in one of those mirrors (2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide) it would affect life-defining decisions about our future, work and relationships, but all of those decisions would be built on false information. We are all at the mercy of the mirrors in our life, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. Our parents and family members serve as mirrors, we look to them for affirmation and assurance; they make us feel worthy and loved. The people we grew up around were mirrors. How they reacted to our physical appearance, gifts, intellect, talents, etc. influenced us through either acceptance or rejection. Teachers, coaches, pastors, authority figures all left an imprint, either positive or negative. The sum total of the responses from all of these mirrors either builds or destroys self-worth, leaving a positive self-image or an image of inadequacy and low self-esteem—shame . In Christ Jesus we are all worthy! We are God’s children. If you confess your shame, whether it was brought about by you or by the actions of someone else, God will work in you.
Describe an incident of redemptive shame in your life? What is the effect of pushing away redemptive shame? Have you witnessed the devastating effect of toxic shame in your life or in the life of someone you know? What kind of mirror did your parents provide as you were growing up? Who has been the most positive mirror for you life? Has anyone been a destructive mirror in your life? How can someone feel shame for something they weren’t responsible for? Why is toxic shame so hard to uproot? How is shame used to manipulate? What kind of mirror are you? Explain.
Repent of any sin. Rid yourself of that shame. If you are carrying toxic shame, turn it over to God. Seek his word and find out how he sees you. Embrace his love and affirmation. In your relationships, vow to be affirming and loving mirror. You do not have to love what they do to love them as a precious creation of God.
Dear heavenly father, forgive me of my sins and help me to see myself as you do. Release me from the shame that holds me back from the beautiful life you want me to live. Use my past hurt and shame for your glory. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!