THE ABIDING LIFE
Shame and Lies
By Gwen Sellers
As I've said before, there is a sense in which shame can be appropriate. Never as a lifestyle or as a definitive judgment on ourselves, but in the sense of feeling ashamed for sin. This shame is easily defeated by Christ. But there is another kind of shame, perhaps more pernicious. It is the shame many experience over things that have no valid association with guilt. This shame still isolates, silences, and allows us to believe we are unloved, but it has zero foundation in truth. It is not appropriate guilt that gets wrongly twisted into something sick. It is just flat out lies.
This is the shame that people feel for having a mental illness, for feeling drained after social engagement, for preferring large parties to intimate gatherings, for liking entertainment geared to children, for knowing they are an adult but feeling like they are only pretending, for trusting someone who turned out to be a con artist, for doubting whether they are fulfilling their purpose, for feeling lonely even when surrounded by others, and for myriad other things. This is the shame that tells us to hide our experience of life because it might not be normal. It is the shame that tells us we cannot be known fully in our idiosyncrasies or amoral struggles or doubts or specific tastes because then we will be utterly rejected. This shame breaks my heart. It leaves us isolated and exhausted. And it has nothing to do with truth.
This shame has been very real in my life. In fact, even in writing this blog I've felt the fear shame engenders. But I refuse to give in. Shame will not win the day. Freedom in Christ is too good for me to relinquish and give way to fear. My identity rests solely in Him. I don't want to live a lie. And I don't want to allow others to live with shame. So I choose to speak, hoping that in so doing someone else might experience freedom in the light.
I have experienced freedom from much of my own shame simply by being honest about my experiences and thoughts. When we share about our lives with others, they can often help guide us into truth. Exposing some of our inner thoughts to trusted others* can help us see what is normal and what we may need to pay a little more attention to. For example, it is totally normal for parents to sometimes feel like they are making it up as they go along. No cause for concern here. It is normal that people have different preferences when it comes to social engagement. Interesting to explore these differences, but not a need for worry. It is not normal to become lackluster toward things that once brought joy (this is a sign of depression and very likely means that something is amiss and you are in need of help). It is not normal to consistently feel fatigued despite getting plenty of sleep (you should probably see a doctor). It is normal to doubt God's love, but there is no need to. That is a common lie of the Enemy that we can help each other fight against. It is normal to fall for flattery and trust someone you should not, but we should learn from that experience so we don't fall as easily next time.
Speaking up about my life has been important not only after the fact, but in the midst of what is going on. Some of my worst decisions have been made in secret. Proverbs 11:14 says, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." The New Testament is filled with instructions to care for one another (John 13:34-35; Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:1-3; Colossians 3:12-17; Hebrews 3:13). Some of the best decisions and moments of my life have happened in community. When I've shared what is going on in my life with others, they have offered helpful insight. At times they have offered correction, pointing out my error and inviting me to a better way. They've pointed out lies that I was believing, exposing the deceitfulness of the Enemy and inviting me to live out of God's truth. They've offered encouragement. They've prayed with me and for me. Perhaps one of the best things about this type of sharing is that I don't feel alone. There is someone in my corner, and that someone is there to help encourage me when defeat seems imminent as well as to share in the celebration of victory. It is a living out of Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
Once we get shame out of the way, we are more free to enjoy life. We can begin to laugh at the embarrassing things — clumsiness or even "dumb choices" not founded in sin, but maybe not our best moment. We can get help when we need it and circumvent unneeded suffering. We are less likely to believe lies. We can share the happy things of life. This is perhaps my favorite result of living unashamedly. I'm all about celebrating, and it's more fun to celebrate with others. I love that people share their victories with me. I love getting to share mine with them. The celebration is so much better when we've also shared the hardship. We know just how much this thing is a victory.
The battle against shame, against the lies of the Enemy, is real. God has fought for me. Others have fought alongside me. I am learning to more quickly ask for their help. I need other people, especially when I am tempted to think I am alone in the struggle. And I pray I will be one who stands up for others. I pray I will live out the words of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
*"Trusted" is an important word here. Your story is yours to share. There are people with whom it is unsafe to share. Sometimes you can share some things with one person but not share other things with that same person. There is also a proper time and place to share certain things. Sometimes the stories over which we experience shame involve third parties, and sometimes we need to leave certain details out of our stories out of respect for them. Entrust your heart first to God. With Him, you can be completely honest all the time. Ask Him to be your covering and to both guide you and protect you in what to share with others.
Image Credit: Matthew Loberg; "Embarrassed"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Personal-Life | Personal-Life
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Published on 3-18-15