Today’s post is written by my dear, “In-Real-Life” friend, Julia Curry. Julia is beginning her Master’s Degree in Counseling but let me tell you, she’s ready to hang her shingle. The schooling is just a formality. Julia’s bio reads: “I was once terrified and now I’m learning to be brave, falling forward through marriage, motherhood and faith. A steady pour of coffee has helped along the way.”
This is a two-part series and if you are in the “Strong and Graceful Oaks’ (in)courage group, you will be chatting with Julia throughout the week. Thank you so much, Julia, for being here today!
You just passed on an opportunity to volunteer at a school event when someone makes a critical remark…
A friend or family member gossips and/or gives you the silent treatment when you make a mistake…
You clearly annoyed your spouse by nagging once again and he lets you know about it…
You overcommited, overate and overcompensated for insecurities during lunch with friends….
You were late and someone made their disapproval very clear…
Your child compares you to another mom who is seemingly so much more patient…
You see yourself in an “all to honest” mirror in a dressing room….
What do these circumstances have in common? They are the petri-dish for shame.
Shame is a force to be reckoned with and perhaps the enemy’s most clever device. Shame researcher, Dr.Brene Brown, defined shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
It’s a deep wound and overall feeling of contamination which causes us to feel uniquely flawed, isolated and inept.
Shame says you are a mistake where guilt says you made a mistake. If you make a mistake then there is still hope. We can take our mistake to the cross and receive forgiveness and course correct from there. If we believe we are a mistake, nothing can change that. Despair easily sets in.
Origins of shame
Shame is the polar opposite of glory. Glory can be defined as a sense of great value of being, acceptability, dignity and legitimacy. God’s purpose in our lives is to impart glory via the blessings from our parents and other important people in our lives.
These blessings serves as guard rails around our heart. The enemy’s intention is to impart a sense of shame into our way of thinking when we are young and easily impressionable. A counselor-friend of mine once said, ” children are keen observers but lousy interpreters.”
Hurtful events occur when we are young and from that we easily interpret that we are bad, a mistake or simply not “enough.”
Hence, our clever foe has planted a seed.
Triggering events continue to occur as we experience life that seem to confirm and feed these toxic lies and before we know it, shame has become the grid through which we see just about everything. Therefore, we spend our energy trying to hide and disprove what we fear to be true by constructing elaborate “appearance management” systems.
As Christains this can be even more difficult as we believe we must cloak all the mess to look, well…Christian!
How can you tell if you are influenced by shame?
Think about how you react when you are backed into the corner and forced to confront a failure or mistake on your part. Is your typical reaction to defend, deflect, try to impress, or get angry? Can you easily “own” your mistakes and feel relaxed in your humanity?
Can you say “no” to requests without over-explanations?
Are you particular about your appearance and embarrassed of someone seeing you when you’re not at your best?
Are you afraid to let others see you in your weak, “don’t-have-it-all-together” moments?
Do you struggle with a compulsion or addiction to some degree?
What goes through your mind when you feel left -out of a social interaction?
What goes through your mind when you look in a mirror?
Do you believe God genuinely enjoys you or merely tolerates you?
I encourage you to think through these questions and invite the Lord to shed some light on whether or not shame is influencing your perception of God, yourself and others.
Author Craig Hill says, “When shame is working, you feel like you have to work twice as hard as others to get half as much done. When you look at peers, you feel like a caterpillar in a butterfly world.”
How do women tend to respond to shame?
So deeply compelled to please, nurture and protect, we women can wear a variety of masks to avoid feelings of inferiority and failure. The following are but a few:
Busyness ( super -mom, wife, friend, daughter, Christian)
Performance (outshining others, perfectionism, comparison, defines sucess by what you accomplish)
Worry and cynicism (negativity as a form of protection from disappointment)
Good girl (pleasing others, assessing your worth based on what others think of you)
Dr. Brown breaks down our reactions to shame into the following three categories
We move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing, and secrets.
We move towards by appeasing and pleasing.
We move against by gaining power over others and fighting “shame with shame”.
Some women tend to battle with shame through:
-Feelings of worthlessness
-Difficulty saying “no”
-Need to succeed or to be attractive in order to be accepted
-Cling to others for purpose and identity
-Believe your tolerated rather than chosen
Others respond to shame by becoming self-sufficient and independent by:
-Measure worth by achievement
-Feel a need to be in control and superior to others
-Feel safe to give, but very uncomfortable receiving. Tend to try to re-pay as to not “owe”
-Believe you should not ask for help as that would show weakness.
-Avoid being in groups unless you are leading.
-Keep others at arms length. Only let them see what’s practiced and polished.
Bottom line: Shame says that we aren’t enough and we don’t have value. Therefore, we conclude that we won’t find our place or purpose in life and be protected from all of the arrows that pierce our identity.
As a result, we take the initiative to protect ourselves. The shell we create around our heart takes different forms, but shame is certainly enforcing it.
When we protect ourselves, we unknowingly withdraw from God. Our head and heart forms a split.
But there is good news! We can take our shame to the cross and break our agreements with it. It’s certainly a process, but it’s worth the investment of time.
Be sure to join us on Thursday for Part Two of learning about shame…Until then, pray that God will reveal areas in which you are operating under shame to you and ask Him to begin to heal these pockets of brokenness that are keeping you from being all you can be.
Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. – Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)