As a pastor, I’ve discovered that many people are dying slowly in a secret tomb of shame. Some are ashamed of their poor financial condition, plagued with guilt about their irresponsible spending and debt.
Others are ashamed about sexual sin from their past. Many carry extreme guilt with them into their future relationships.
The shame cycle
Shame usually follows a pattern – a cycle of self-recrimination and lies that claims life after life.
Phase One: We experience an intensely painful event.
I don’t know what that would be for you. Maybe it was what somebody did to you. Maybe it was something that you did. It might have even been your fault. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was as much it is that you hurt because of what happened.
Phase Two: We connect what happened with who we are.
This is the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, “Well, I did something bad and I feel guilty about it.” Shame says, “I am bad.”
Guilt says, “This was something I did that I am not proud of.” Shame says, “I am a horrible person because of what I did.”
Phase Three: We become a prisoner tormented by our past.
Because of what happened, we feel this deep sense of separation from God or separation from others and a very real sense of desperation.
We think: “I’ll never get over this. My life will never be the way it could have been or should have been. I’m trapped. I can’t get out. I’ll never fully recover.”
This is deep dark shame and it will cause us to isolate and hide ourselves.
There is a way out of the cycle!
It is different for each person but it is also possible for each person by the grace of God no matter how uniquely and irreversibly crippling that person’s shame might feel.
How to break the shackles of shame
1. Accept that which cannot be changed.
For many, it is difficult to accept that the past has passed. Sometimes, it’s so hard just to leave it there, where it belongs. But until we do, we cannot make peace with the present or walk into the future with hope.
2. Embrace that God can change our future.
While we may always remember what happened, we need to believe that we are not what happened. We are who God says we are – new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When we reject what our shame says about us, we can finally hear what God says about us. He is working in all things to bring about good in our lives because we love God and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
Once a broken bone heals it is often strongest at the point of fracture. In the same way, God can take the shame of our past failures and amazingly redirect their outcomes toward our future success.
Today is the day to let go of your shame!
You can’t change whatever is causing you shame, but God can use it for His good .
Imagine for a moment how different your life could be if you broke free from the cycle of shame. Imagine the freedom you would feel. Imagine God taking that shame and now using it for His good.
Can you see that happening? Does that excite you?