7 Ways Shame is Ruining Your Life
Let go and let God. Yuck. I loathe that phrase. It’s become such a cliche in the church. And it’s basically just someone’s way of telling you that you don’t have enough faith. Should we have faith? Absolutely. Should we let go and let God? Absolutely. Whether it’s from something that’s worrying you, guilt you’re feeling, or dealing with shame. But the truth is, if you’ve never been taught how to “let go and let God” (pardon me while I throw up in my mouth), it’s kind of hard to just throw your hands up and move on, right?
Ultimately, letting go of shame is giving it up to God and allowing Him to work through it. But until you learn how to give it up, it can be a challenge to move past the way you’re feeling. These 7 ways shame is ruining your life can help you to change your mindset and move toward the freedom God has for you.
1. Understand that Shame is Different from Guilt
Guilt says, “I did something bad,” and needs forgiveness. Shame says, “I am bad,” and needs a complete shift in your identity. If you feel yourself becoming wrapped up in shame, changes are it’s having an impact on your identity. Making a mistake can leave both guilt and shame, but it’s important to recognize the difference. In his book Shame Interrupted, Ed Welch describes that shame feels like it’s welded on to you, while guilt feels like something outside of you. Sound familiar?
2. Shame can happen because of something that’s been done to us
Shame is a common result of people who’ve been hurt and abused. Hurtful acts, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can leave you even more vulnerable to shame. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the victim of sexual assault to feel more shame than the perpetrator.
3. Shame can happen because of something we’ve done
Do you believe you can’t ever feel better after making a mistake? This is where “letting go” come in. And here’s how you do it: by repenting. Repentance sounds like a fancy, church-y word, but in reality, it’s simply “turning away” from whatever mistake (a.k.a. sin) you were involved with.
It’s important to remember, if you’ve asked for forgiveness, your sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. They’re no longer held against you. Continuing to carry around shame because of a past mistake doesn’t just make you feel shame, however. It can also lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more. For the sake of your own physical and emotional well-being, allow God to work on those areas within you.
4. It doesn’t have to come from anyone’s mistake
Have you ever felt disconnected from God? Not because of something you’ve done or even that’s been done to you? Shame can be another term for unbelief in God’s love for you. It’s one thing to believe your mistake (sin) has been removed form you; it’s another to believe God’s love can never be removed from you.
Shame is a barrier – keeping love from getting through. This can be God’s love or anyone else’s.
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” – Exodus 15:13
5. We try to get rid of it by giving it to other people
Many times, shame makes us unconsciously pass it to those around us. Take, for example, the mother who feels bad about her own body. She may end up criticizing her daughter’s eating and clothing choices, making her daughter grow up with a sense of shame, too.
6. Shame hinders your creativity
If I’m constantly worried about myself, I’ll never be able to quit second-guessing my work. Creativity requires a freedom that shame hinders, because shame requires that all we do should be perfect before anybody else sees. In case you were unaware, Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk the earth. Creativity takes risks – and it can be hard to risk anything when you’re feeling ashamed.
7. Relationships often suffer because of shame
If I don’t think I can can be loved, I’ll have a hard time being in a relationship with anybody. I’ll always find ways to distance myself from other people to protect myself. My core belief is that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with me anyway.
But there is hope.
The most powerful way to get rid of shame is to learn to be open with yourself and with others. As we share our hearts, and our stories, and the way shame has tried to keep us down, we begin to find freedom. It loses its fuel and its isolation.
It just comes down to being willing to be open.