I hope you enjoy the last installment from my in-real-life friend, Julia Curry! It’s POWERFUL!!!!
These qualities sound great but how do we break the agreement with shame and tap into what’s truest about us?
Leanne Payne, founder of Pastoral Care Ministries reminds us that “self hatred, with its shame and self- pity, is a powerful and compelling means the enemy uses to tempt people to step outside the true self into the old with all its uncreative behavior and sin.”
I hesitate to sound too prescriptive because letting go of shame is not a one time deal. Its an unwinding and unfurling process that occurs on deepening levels over time. It may take longer for those that have a very perfectionistic lens.
My suggestion is to see this process as a form of crucial development rather than a “defect” to be checked off the list. Growth more readily occurs from a place of rest when we believe we are accepted. If we are hating ourselves, we will stay in “fight or flight” mode and remain needy and focused on protecting ourselves.
Payne reminds us that “accepting oneself is a vital step to be taken in order to cross over the line of bondage towards freedom.” Christians somehow get the notion that wearing the cloak of shame is synonymous with humility. Our actions bear witness to another reality. The more we dislike ourselves, the more self-focused we become. On the contrary, the more we believe, understand and live out of our true-nature “hidden” in Christ, the more we look up to Him and out towards others.
Four Suggestions To Combat Shame:
1) RECOGNIZE: Inquire in God’s presence. He will help us identify what is false and fan into flame our true Christ nature. Learn to recognize the lies that perpetuate the feelings of shame. Set aside the black and white thought patterns. Practice integrated thinking. (I am both saint and sinner. I am accepted right now and called to more growth) What do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? How realistic are your expectations? Practice kindness and resist the urge to judge yourself. This most likely started when you were younger. Treat yourself with the same dignity you would a child who interpreted things wrong and acted out based on limited understanding. Attune yourself to Christ’s compassion and truth. Sit in His presence and see what He illuminates through listening prayer. If you feel blocked, you may want to ask a friend, counselor or mentor into this process.
2) WRITE IT: The enemy operates in vague-ness. Put pen to paper and write out the lies and whatever scripture speaks to them. Also, write anything down that God directly reveals to your heart. We need His affirmation that doesn’t change like shifting shadows. Craig Hill suggest meditating on scriptures in the “three critical identity” areas: Yourself, God, and Others. (Based upon 2 Cor 3:18, Ephesians 1:3-6, Romans 14:1-4, John 12:43, Hebrews 12:2)
3) RETURN TO THE CROSS: “We are saints made in the image of God, fallen from that image and in Christ, once again redeemed to bear that image. We must be fearless in affirming all that we are by creation, redemption and calling, and ruthless in disowning all that we are by the Fall.”- John Scott in The Cross of Christ
Once we identify the lies, we can know that the enemy’s power is fueled by us believing the lie. We need to name it, repent of believing the lie, cast it down and receive the truth. I’m not going to soften it – this is work! Our minds form thought patterns over years that can be deeply embedded. It takes time to form new habits of thought. Payne says “the renunciation of self hatred is a deliberate step we take, and we keep our eyes on the source of our salvation, not on subjective feelings which are unreliable due to habitual diseased attitudes we have towards ourselves.” Grace doesn’t just say “you’re off the hook.” It actually empowers us for transformation! Genuine examen always connects us to our essential nature both sacred and profane while beckoning us towards the cross. At the cross, its safe to become intimate with what lies inside because our hope isn’t found in fixing ourselves, but in the Divine exchange of our shame for His glory (2 peter 2:4-7).
He was shamed without measure and died in shame that you might be crowned with glory and honor. – Hebrews 2:6-15
4) REACH OUT: The antidote to shame is vulnerability. This begins, of course, in dialogue with God but continues within the context of community. When you are stuck in a moment of shame, act in the the opposite spirit of hiding and reach out to one or several safe people.
I had no idea how many remnants of shame were still wedged in my heart until I was in long term spiritual formation group. This was the most transforming community I ever experienced. We sifted through the true and false inclinations together. I noticed a deep disdain and tendency to want to cloak what I deemed unruly, weak and hideous. I noticed others practicing radical honesty and I thought them more beautiful for it. Why did I feel an almost nauseating determination to hide all that felt icky and false? Its the old “s” word!
By the grace of God he compelled me to share the good, the bad and the ugly. I was met with acceptance and appreciation for daring to trust them with my heart. It was through this unexpected call to vulnerability that I found the greatest resilience against shame.
Its worth noting that the friendships that helped me the most did not consist only of people who would tell me what I wanted to hear to make me feel better. I have been most affected by women who have loved me enough to let me know if I’m operating out of insecurity, fear or shame. Also, God has used them to call forth what is true in me. Somehow, they had a vision for who I was becoming. God was imparting value and a sense of destiny through their life-giving relationships. They called me to a higher place.
Vulnerability has been a painful practice at times. It’s tricky to comprehend the fact that when I don’t cover up what’s weak, unrehearsed and flawed in my humanity, people can somehow see Christ better. Paul writes about this reality in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 .
“For God Who said, Let there be light in the darkness, has made the light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
When light pours out of a clay vessel, all the dings, nicks and scratches are exposed. If we focus on the vessel rather than the light, then we will hide the light so our imperfections won’t show. What we fail to realize is that this actually distorts the image of Christ working in us to others and perpetuates the cycles of shame.
Paul later reminds us of this in the same letter that “His power works best in our inability to produce results. (weakness) So, now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor 12:9, AMP)
Through community, these verses have become a living reality.
I realize that to be “known” is to risk. Not everyone is met with grace. It’s wise to practice discernment in who you choose to reveal your heart. In our humanity, we will stumble over each other and get bent out-of-shape at times. If we don’t live by the rules of shame, we will know how to walk in confession and forgiveness. We won’t allow shame to hold ourselves and others hostage when we relate in messy ways. I’m often reminded of GK Chesterton’s assertion that, “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
That wraps up my series on “shame.” I pray that this is just the beginning of a process towards recognizing and walking out of what is false and growing up in Christ!
With dignity and love,