The Shame Cycle

I’ve spent far too much time asking myself two questions: What is wrong with me? and Why can’t I get it together?

These aren’t kind questions. They are condemning. They’re laced with a nasty idea: shame. Up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have known to call it that. But then a friend gently helped me see the narrative that shame speaks: You’re not enough. You’re not worthy of love. Something is wrong – beyond even Jesus’ repair – at the core of your being. And worse yet, it tells me that nobody else is quite as bad as I am, leaving me feeling hidden and alone.

I had tried so many times to “fix” myself. As I struggled with sexual sin, anxiety and an intense drive to earn others’ approval, I would vow to make changes. Inevitably, I cycled back to sin, which left me feeling like a failure, only intensifying the shame.

But over time, God began to remind me of His narrative, a story that is louder than the story of shame. He is not repulsed or frustrated with me. He would never, ever speak shame over me. I began to see how Jesus treated people who struggled with shame (John 8:1-11; Luke 7:36-50). His love, combined with His truth, caused them to come out of hiding.

I am learning that I no longer have to remain hidden but can actually invite Jesus into my shame. His voice tells me that I am accepted, chosen and redeemed, made righteous and blameless by his blood – regardless of how I feel. I don’t have to “fix” myself.

Freed by the love of Christ to tell the truth about myself, I am seeing a new cycle emerge. I am finding the courage to practice vulnerability with my friends. Authentic relationships are emerging, and more truth and freedom is taking hold. This is good news!

Are there any areas of your life where you wrestle with shame? Would you be willing to sit with the Father and allow Him to speak into those very places, listening for what truth He wants to speak?

Once you’ve done that, think of a friend you could practice vulnerability with. Take a step of courage and invite them into this part of your life. Who knows, you may even hear them say, “Me too!”

Resources

The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson
The Shame Exchange: Trading Shame for God’s Mercy and Freedom by Steve & Sally Breedlove and Ralph & Jennifer Ennis
Boldly I Approach, a song by Rend Collective