Step Out of Shame

Shame is a complex thing. If I could describe shame as a color, it would be neon yellow. If I could describe shame as a smell, it would be mildew. If I could describe shame as a taste, it would be spoiled milk. Shame is loud, it demands to be seen; shame lingers; shame leaves a gross feeling with you the second you give in to it.  Shame is also sneaky and manipulative. Sometimes, you don’t even realize you are following the voice of shame because it has been masked by truth. But remember, Satan knows truth and he will often twist it just enough so that you believe you are following truth even though you are not. 

For example, one day I was sitting in a group discipleship meeting when my discipler said an amazing statement about the responsibility we have as followers of Jesus that anyone else would take as encouragement. But shame had gripped me so tightly that day that what I heard in my mind, and accidentally mistook for God’s voice, was “See Tori, I warned you. I warned you that this was what it meant to know these things, I warned you that understanding certain things meant greater responsibility. And still you have failed to keep a soft heart and you have let yourself grow hard because of the reality you are now aware of.” When I later was explaining this to her, she looked at me and said “Tori…. That does not sound like God. Yes, there is a truth that God has asked you to keep a soft heart despite the things you now know about your past, but that is not how He speaks to you about it. He isn’t angry with you, and He knows you need help to create that softenness within you right now.” I just sat in shock, not even understanding how I so easily lost sight of what I know without any doubt to be true about God… but that is because shame is manipulative and its subtle whispers pulled my focus away from who God is and who He says I am.

As I began unpacking all of my thoughts around this idea, I realized how in bondage to shame I actually was. I knew shame was something I dealt with, but I didn’t understand how deeply ingrained it had become in my being. For so long, I kept telling myself “I just have to heal,” and “I just need to stop thinking this way,” and “I should know better, do better, and do more.” But, besides the obvious understanding that this is so pressure-filled and mean to myself, the problem with these thoughts were they were all work-based. I had the understanding that I don’t have to work to receive God’s love, I knew that deeply, but for some reason I could not get it in my brain that I cannot “work” my way out of shame either. My counselor told me once, “Tori you have got to stop trying to heal yourself, you literally cannot. Just surrender and let God heal you in His timing.” Ouch. But very true and necessary to hear. 

You see, shame tells you that “you, as a person are bad.” That is NOT God’s truth, God calls us beloved, His children, He says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and nothing could ever change that. I was trying to work my way out of a false identity, the false identity was shame. And the reality is that you cannot work for identity - it is simply a God-given gift for us to receive. We can work to change wrong/sinful actions but never our identity. 

Yes we have a responsibility to love God, but we don’t have to walk in this “requirement” mentality. We are not required to work harder, or heal faster, or do better. It's okay if you have moments where you can’t do certain things, those are the moments you ask God to fuel you and help you. There are no requirements, you aren’t doing this alone, God wants to help you. If you believe that all of these things are required of you to make steps forward then you may be falling to the voice of shame. It will distract you from your true identity as God’s chosen creation, and without your knowledge, it will keep you more stuck and more frustrated than you started because you are constantly falling short and keeping yourself in this cycle of shameful thoughts. 

I don’t know your story, and you probably don’t know mine. But I can tell you this, shame is not your identity. You do not have to live under the scrutiny of it any longer. No matter what you have done, no matter what you have been through, no matter what you struggle with currently, you do not have to pick it up and carry it as yours. God will free you, God will heal you. 

Over the break, it's easy to fall back into old patterns that you used to live in before you came to college. That's normal, lean on God and ask for help - but do not feel shame for where you have been. You may look around and see all the lack or the things in your family that are still broken. I’m sorry if that is the case for you, I fully believe that is not God’s desire and He will redeem you. You can be sad and set necessary boundaries to live in love, but do not close yourself off from others in shame. Shame is not who you are and it is not what you are destined to live with. When everything stills over the break, your thoughts may trail into all the things you should be judged for, but do not fall victim to shame in them because Jesus already set you free from this through his crucifixion and resurrection - because of Him you are free and do not have to live in this bondage. Believe in Him, believe in His promise, believe in the true identity He has revealed to you and take a step forward into more. That is what you have been given, so take it freely and leave shame at the door as you enter your Father’s house. 

Author | Tori Kramer

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