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Shadow of Shame: Step into the Light of Our Savior

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior.



Let’s talk about the S word. No, I’m not referring to a curse word. Or even the word “stupid,” which was not allowed to be used in our home when my kids were growing up. (They heard enough pejorative adjectives from their peers.)

Rather, I want us to take a few minutes to inspect, take a fresh look at, and perhaps begin to disarm a sleeper cell that has dwelt in mankind since the Garden. I’m talking about shame. While it isn’t possible to sweep out all the spiders and cobwebs that have accrued over the decades of darkness in which shame has hidden, perhaps shining some light into the darkness will at least put a broom into your hands.

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #shame #perfectionism #defensive #apology #judgment #bondage #freedom

Shadow of Shame

The topic of shame has made a resurgence in recent years, almost as though the subject had never been brought up before, (it has, but we didn’t have social media). For this, we can thank the research of University of Houston’s Dr. Brene Brown.

Her work resulted in books and TED Talks on YouTube, which catapulted the topic to a buzz word for several months…and that’s really longer than one can expect any topic to last in our micro-everything culture. Since Brown’s Ted Talks are some of the most-watched videos in the world, we should know all we need to know about shame; it’s already so ‘last year.’

If that is the case, why do we continue to experience that painful, pervading sense of being flawed or not enough – ever?

Unashamed to Fig Leaves

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25, ESV

That is the first time shame/ashamed is mentioned in Scripture, but certainly not the last. However, it is one of the last times Adam and Eve were UNashamed. Only a chapter later they were hiding from God, ashamed of their sin and nakedness.

And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’

Genesis 3:10, ESV

Since that pivotal day, mankind has been hiding our shame behind our own fig leaves, which we have woven together since childhood. Yours may look different from mine, more colorful or loud, more acceptable or appealing, but an honest look inside our hearts, an honest probing by the Holy Spirit will reveal where each of us is prone to hide.

Let’s look at a few hiding places where shame operates…

Hiding Places

Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or at least to appear to be perfect. I like to say that I am a recovering perfectionist. It used to almost make me physically ill if I could not perform most tasks perfectly, according to my estimation. Yet, this a socially acceptable fig leaf. Brene Brown said:

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth. She explains that perfectionism is used by many people as a shield to protect against the pain of blame, judgment, or shame.

https://www.goodtherapy.org

Perfectionism can cause procrastination, (if I can’t do it perfectly, I will delay until I can perform perfectly). This can also lead to an attitude of blaming others for anything that appears like a failure. “It wouldn’t have happened that way if so-and-so had done his job correctly! It isn’t my fault,” which leads to our next hiding place…

Defensiveness is one way we protect ourselves from unpleasant feelings such as feeling sad or sorry that we disappointed or hurt a loved one. Being defensive is a way to avoid taking responsibility for our behavior, especially if we equate responsibility with shame.

Let’s say my husband is upset because I’m late meeting him for lunch. If I’m defensive I might say, “Well, we were late to church last week because you took so long to get ready and I didn’t get mad about that!”

If I’m not shackled by shame, I can recognize that my spouse has expressed his feelings about my tardiness. It isn’t something intrinsically wrong with me; I simply need to hear his feelings and apologize for my delay.

More Hiding

Apologizing can go either way.

Shame can cause us to be overly apologetic and compliant. We assume that others are right and we’re wrong. Better to diffuse a shaming attack or criticism before it begins by apologizing first.

Conversely, we can be so powerfully ruled by an unconscious shame that we don’t want to expose ourselves to imagined ridicule by admitting any wrong or mistake. Being vulnerable is seen as being weak.

This is what one blogger wrote about co-dependency/people-pleasing:

I always thought co-dependency would be easy and obvious to spot, but I tell you what – in the Church – it’s easy to confuse co-dependency with godliness. Codependents are the people who always put others needs before their own, which sounds so great, except it’s fueled by a compulsion to put others needs before your own. Many who struggle with this don’t even feel their own needs or desires anymore…the soul infected with shame is so unsure of its worth (not having that matter settled between self and God) that it seeks to find value in being needed or serving others.

http://www.fabsharford.com

The Church and Shame

Church is one of shame’s best hiding places.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, shame can cover itself with an attitude of superiority and judgment. My mom was filled with shame and insecurity due to her abusive childhood. But she hid that by presenting a haughty, superior person to everyone outside of our home. By judging others first as less than, people were thereby not given the opportunity to reject her. She rejected them first and led a lonely, almost friendless life.

Sadly, I’ve seen this often in the Church. It usually hides behind doctrine or theological arguments, sometimes social issues. However, we must be alert to our own hearts for this sly hiding place of shame. Maligning others in order to make ourselves feel better is not a way to healing.

The Release of Shame

I don’t believe it was ever God’s intention for His children to remain shame-based in our lives or relationships. Scripture has much to say about shame, and it isn’t about God shaming us – unless we choose to remain in our sin.

‘Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah 3:25, ESV

Despite deserving judgment and death, He continually promises deliverance for those who come to Him.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:4-5, ESV

The wondrous, heralding chapter of Isaiah 61, prophecies the coming of our Lord Jesus. Among other beautiful things, he announces the release of shame.

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

Isaiah 61:7, ESV

Sisters, come out of hiding. There is no need to live in the shadow of shame any longer. Our Warrior King has come to strengthen, heal, and deliver us from the shame that binds us, for His glory and honor.

Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

Zephaniah 3:19, ESV
Sisters, come out of hiding. There is no need to live in the shadow of shame any longer. Our Warrior King has come to strengthen, heal, and deliver us from the shame that binds us, for His glory and honor. Click To Tweet

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #shame #perfectionism #defensive #apology #judgment #bondage #freedom

unsplash-logoThomas Millot
judgment, judging, kindness, mercy, love, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Judging: Taking A Posture of Mercy Toward Our Neighbors

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord’s work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. 



I was walking in my neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny day. It was a great reprieve from the winter gloom and rain, so naturally, a lot of other people were out as well. As I was passing these walkers or joggers, I said hello and smiled at them. I was a bit taken aback when 8 out of the 10 people, ignored me. Not even a courteous nod to my smile…

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord's work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #judgment #love #mercy #kindness

Judging

I began to get offended and thought to myself, “This world is so selfish. People won’t even say hi to each other on the street anymore.” I continued on my walk and as I turned back toward home, I had to face the way the people passing me had been. The sun was low in the sky and was full force in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything, let alone anyone’s face that was passing me. I had a moment of realization, then of shame…

How quick was I to judge the people passing me? How understanding or merciful had I been? The Lord showed me that I had been judgmental and unmerciful without a moment’s hesitation.

Merciful

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

James 2:13, NLT

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus is having a conversation with one of the teacher’s of the law about inheriting eternal life. The man asked Jesus who his neighbor was and Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. When he asks the man who was the neighbor to the man who had been attacked, the teacher replies, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus replies, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

This may seem like such an easy concept to grasp to some of you reading, but for me, it’s been a tough one. I have a very high sense of justice, but mercy isn’t on my radar like it should be. This lacking shows itself most intensely in motherhood. 

I homeschool my kids which means I am around them almost all the time. So they hear and see me do some pretty messed up things. I always apologize and they are always quick to forgive. However, when the roles are reversed, I often drag out the sentencing instead of pronouncing mercy over them. I tend to point out not just the current offense, but bring up old ones as well. I feel they need to truly feel the guilt and shame of their wrongs. And, once I’m satisfied in their judgment, I will forgive and be “merciful”. Bless my heart.

What if?

Honestly, I’m not even sure I’m qualified to write this today. What if I’m still struggling? Aren’t we supposed to write about what we’ve conquered so we can pass on our wisdom to others going through it?

What if instead of wondering how I can show kindness to the girl looking uncomfortable in my church row, I’m silently judging her too short skirt and too revealing top? What if instead of loving my foster kids’ biological families, I’m hoping they miss another visit so I don’t have to deal with it that day? Why am I so ugly and unmerciful when God has been ridiculously loving and merciful to me?

Why are we so ugly and unmerciful to our neighbors, when God has been so ridiculously loving and merciful to us? Judging others is not our job! Click To Tweet

Saving Mercy

It’s a heart issue, no doubt. I haven’t truly repented; looked at my sin and despised it. Somewhere inside of me, I still feel justified, qualified, and above reproach. 

Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ -and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:14-16, NLT

This is what I cling to and what I hope for: that God will continue to convict, mold me and shape me. That others will see even my hot mess can be forgiven. And that He has extended mercy, not judgment, to those who call on His name. Praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord's work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #judgment #love #mercy #kindness

Xuan Nguyen