Have any of us not felt ashamed? Have you ever gone a week where you didn’t struggle with an inner voice whispering how stupid or unworthy you are? Do you find yourself thinking, “If anyone knew this about me, would they even want to know me?”
Most of us carry a burdensome sense of unworthiness and shame. Even those of us who believe we have laid down the sources of this toxic stuff.
And it is toxic. Shame triggers a neuroanatomical response and our bodies are alerted to danger, causing us to want to hide or disappear. It literally causes isolation and loneliness. Shame is a barrier against our intrinsic need and desire for connection, community and wholeness.
The shame we feel is rooted in a flawed sense that we are not enough—not good enough or loveable enough.
We have absorbed this deeply wounding message and missed the critical piece of wisdom. The things we do, the things that were done to us, the mistakes we make, the shape of our bodies, the things our bodies can or cannot do, are not who we are.
Who we are, our true self, is made in the image of God. This is a God who created us in and for love.
If this is God, then shame does not originate with Him and is not perpetuated by Him.
Some of us deal with this pervasive sense of unworthiness by sinking everything we have into being good people. We work at full tilt; we strive to be pivotal members of our communities; we make sure we’re integral to our friendship groups; we volunteer until we’re exhausted—all in the hope that no one else will notice the shameful stuff. And, although we may not acknowledge this to ourselves, it’s also all in the hope that maybe God will be distracted by our goodness and love us.
Others of us feel driven to do things that ultimately hurt us and drive others away. Advertising assures us that stuff will deal with it, so a lot of us get into debt trying to spend our way out of the shame we feel.
Does any of this work? Do we feel more whole? Do we feel loved unconditionally? Maybe for a minute. There must be a way to halt the toxic, life-sucking effects of shame and live more fully.
If shame is nurtured in dark secret places then bringing it into the light is the first step in unraveling its hold on us.
Finding a safe person—whether a trusted friend or therapist—to share this stuff with can take time and energy.
It can be a risk, that’s for sure. But if we can find at least one person who can look at us and really see us, our shame and all, and tell us that we are loved and that we are good then we will have a renewed glimpse at who we really, truly are—a person made in and for love.