Oops! That debilitating moment of shame followed the surprising outburst you could not control. It just came out. Loud and long. Others lifted eyebrows. A man chuckled. A lady harrumphed. No one spoke.
We feel shameful emotions for lots of reasons: temporary defeat, self-consciousness about performance, rejection from others, hopes and dreams blocked, inferior feelings. Some shame runs deeper when triggered by things like addiction, break up of an intimate relationship, guilt from sin, habits we can’t break, childhood abuse.
Shame can help us develop a moral compass or it can lead to destructive choices. Shame may cause us to believe we have to be perfect or we won’t be loved or accepted. We can withdraw from others. We can become distant. Shame can lead us to feel super-responsible or seek approval excessively.
When you burp in the elevator the shame goes away when the elevator clears. But toxic shame may require that we carefully and truthfully look at ourselves to uproot shame’s causes.
So how do we heal from shame’s grip on our lives?
The most important thing we can do is choose to love ourselves. This is shame’s enemy. We cannot count on unconditional love from anyone except ourselves. This is not easy. It took me about four years before I could love myself completely and enjoy being with myself.
I also had to take my shame back where it belonged. To the cross. Jesus died for all my sins, guilt and shame. Today it’s easier to confess my sins and leave my shame at the cross. And just like that, Jesus restores the joy of our fellowship, because His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and there’s no condemnation for me because I’m in Christ Jesus.(Romans 8:1).