I don’t know that there’s anything more painful or anything more common than the horrible, destructive power of shame.
Shame researcher Brené Brown defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
Unworthy of connection – we are so afraid of vulnerability when it comes to our stories that we attempt to compensate for our shame by putting up facades to avoid having to deal with our deepest wounds.
Very recently, the Lord revealed to me the intensity of the shame I’ve been suffering through for years and years. Shame is destructive and I can tell you first hand just how much it robs you relationally, spiritually, emotionally, even physically – shame is the single most destructive thing that the enemy uses against us, and everyone has dealt with it at some point or another because we’ve all felt less than and not worth it when our relationships fail, when our friends bail, when our families fall apart – the brokenness of our fragile shells have been outlined with a fine line of shame’s colors of pain, fear, and rejection.
We have completely convinced ourselves that if people knew all of us, we would be cast out and left completely barren and unloved.
It’s funny because I convinced myself of this for something like 10 years – if people knew all of me, I would be completely destroyed, my life would be over. But that’s the lie Satan tells us when in actuality, bringing our shame into the light is what ushers in freedom.
We decide that grace is applicable to everyone but ourselves, and we reject acceptance even though it is what we crave.
“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” (Brené Brown)
I can’t even stress how in the dark and terrifying shame is, but I’m sure you can understand. I went so far as to convince myself I was unlovable to others.
Guys – unlovable
Worthlessness doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of the intensity of inadequacy that I was feeling because I convinced myself I was unlovable. When you convince yourself that what you’ve walked through is too much for other people to handle, the devil hasn’t just gained a foothold, but he’s been invited to take a seat in your life, and so the father or lies just continues to feed you lies about who you are – and shame becomes an identity you don’t even realize you have.
I think we’ve underplayed the significance of shame in our lives – it’s covered up with pride and bullying, addiction and relationships – the damage it causes is all-consuming. There is no condemnation in Christ, but when we buy into the cyclical pattern of shame, we convince ourselves that grace isn’t enough; and this is in complete contrast to our familiarity with God’s words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)
Shame doesn’t only destroy our concept of grace; it utterly destroys the light that’s trying to seep into our stories and set us free. Shame is living in darkness, and we defeat shame by sharing our stories because vulnerability is the light that casts out the darkness of shame’s secrecy.
Brené Brown made an extremely insightful observation about shame and the fear we have of our stories:
“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
The amount of time I, and maybe you too, have spent covering up my story and locking myself away from freedom is, honestly, insane. The amount of time we spend walking around with no one knowing our struggles and the deepest parts of us causes an inability to express ourselves in vulnerability, so when the time comes for transparency to be necessary, we have to face an intensely painful battle to shine light on those hidden parts, and it is ridiculously hard.
But as hard as it is, it’s the most freeing thing I have every experienced – sharing the most shame-covered parts of my story. And people loved me all the more for it. Find your freedom dear, you are worth being free.
So, I will leave you with this message from C.S. Lewis:
“Courage, dear heart.”
Share your story, because, I promise, you will be loved all the more for it and you will be all the more beautiful for it. And, most importantly, shame will no longer have a seat at the table in your life. So declare freedom because that’s what Jesus came for – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Live in freedom, live in freedom, live in freedom.