Have you ever heard that little voice in your head say...?
“You don’t fit in”
“Nobody likes you”
“You’re the only one who has made this mistake”
“How could God love you? I mean He really knows everything about you”
“You’re not lovable”
“You will never fulfill your destiny”
Have you ever felt like…?
“Everyone is against me”
“I’m not as good as others”
“I just can’t do anything right”
“Maybe if I just try harder, then…”
“I’m all alone”
“I hate myself”
If you answered “yes” to any of these statements, shame could be speaking to you.
Shame Has Been Speaking Since the Garden of Eden
When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, guilt was an appropriate symptom of their disobedience. Guilt is built into our conscience to let us know when we have done something that threatens our connection with God.
Guilt is actually a good thing. It’s like a warning light on a car’s dashboard that lets you know when something needs attention before the engine blows up.
Guilt is from God
Shame is from Satan
Guilt says, “You did something wrong,” like when the apostle Paul said, “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). Guilt says, “I did something bad.” Guilt is about what we’ve done.
Shame goes further: It speaks to who we are.
Shame is the sense of feeling unworthy. It’s a core (even subconscious) belief of unworthiness.
Shame says, “You are wrong.” “You are a sinner.” “You are bad.” “You are not good enough.”
Shame asks, “Who do you think you are?
Shame Attempts to Speak to Our Identity
If the devil can convince us that we do not have a supernatural identity as children of God, then he can derail us from our supernatural destiny.
When Jesus was baptized, he heard the Father say, “This is my son…” Identity. Interestingly, Jesus did not preach one message, heal one sick person, or prophesy until he first heard of his true identity. We can only fulfill our supernatural destiny to the degree that we believe our supernatural identity.
Shame Tries to Talk Us Out of Our Identity
After his baptism, Jesus was led out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Two times, the devil assaulted Jesus’ identity when he challenged him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” And then, “If you are the Son of God, jump off of the temple’s roof.”
The devil was attempting to tempt Jesus into performing to prove his identity because he knew that if Jesus took the challenge, it would demonstrate that he did not really know who he was. Moreover, he would have to spend the rest of his life proving his identity over and over. Knowing our true identity prevents performance for approval.
Shame is the Source of Perfectionism
Shame always seeks to seduce its prey into perfectionism. When we listen to shame, we will never feel secure in our identity. We will always need to do more to prove that “we are O.K.”, while never actually appeasing shame’s appetite for approval.
The pursuit of feeling worthy by being better, more successful, thinner, smarter, wealthier, accomplished, or even in “good” busyness, is a futile attempt at cultivating a godly sense of worthiness.
The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:10 that, “We are saved by grace, not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.” That means you cannot earn worthiness. We are worthy of God’s love because of His grace – nothing more.
Additionally, we were God’s treasures before we ever became Christians – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” When God created Adam and Eve, He said that they were “good;” they had intrinsic worth – worthiness – His treasures.
1. Learn how to recognize God’s voice from the devil’s voice.
Ask yourself, “Is what I’m hearing the truth or a lie?” Try writing down all of the times shame speaks to you during the day. You may be surprised at how often shame is speaking.
2. Learn how to be vulnerable.
Shame loves secrecy. The truth will set us free. Being open and honest requires great risk, but also reaps great reward. Begin with yourself, God, and then reach out to someone who can give you good feedback. Telling someone that we have been listening to shame releases us from the power of secrecy, and silences shame.
3. Learn to recognize your feelings.
Empathy is the antidote to shame. When we are able to discern and identify our feelings and the feelings of others, it creates a pathway to finding out what we need from God, others, and ourselves. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” “What do I need?”
4. Learn to take every thought captive.
You are going to be tempted to believe and act in negative, hurtful, and dysfunctional ways to the shame messages spoken to you. Shame is silenced when we take ownership of our mistakes, accept our limitations, deficiencies, and limitations, as well as interpret other people’s motives correctly. Take responsibility in submitting shaming thoughts and feelings to become obedient to Christ’s perspective (2 Corinthians 10:5).
5. Learn how to listen through the ears of faith.
Ask yourself, “What does God want to say to me about my identity right now?” “What does He think about me?” Additionally, begin reading Scripture from the perspective that God is for you, that you are a good man or woman, that you are a saint saved by grace, an overcomer, the apple of His eye.
6. Learn to be grateful.
The fact is that you are wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14). Being grateful for how God has made you in all of your limitations and imperfections will help you to replace shame with acceptance and love. Every time you hear shame messages left on your mental voice mail, erase them with gratitude. Thankfulness prepares the way for a breakthrough.
Are you struggling with forgiving yourself? Find out how your past guilt and shame is causing self-hate and learn how to move past it here.