Shame is very real. It is a deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. In this article by Dr. Donna Hart, PhD, you’ll discover the imacts, causes, and effects of shame. Plus, learn steps to freedom! Donna’s article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.
Shame is very real. For example: a sexually violated woman feels contaminated by what has been done to her, and she really has been contaminated. Shame feels like you have dirt on you that you cannot seem to wash off. It does not matter how you have been violated, shame causes you to believe you are a mess and something has to be done about it.
Impacts of Shame
Shame is a deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. It has images attached to it of being an outsider, naked, and unclean.
It can cause you to feel inadequate, small, and worthless. No matter what you do or how much you attain you can still hear your parents say, “You will never amount to anything.”
Shame is life-dominating and stubborn and once entrenched in your heart and mind, it is a squatter that can refuse to leave. You might notice hints of it when you are embarrassed but it is more than that. Embarrassment doesn’t afflict the core of your soul, but shame becomes your identity.
Causes of Shame
The list of shame-causers is unending. Any sexual violation brings shame to the victim. Unfaithfulness in marriage brings shame on the betrayed spouse. Verbally battered men and women are filled with it.
Did you grow up with an angry, unpredictable parent who exploded, apologized, and exploded again? When you live around irrational anger, you will eventually blame yourself. If you carry extra body weight in a culture obsessed with thinness you carry shame. Fall below the community standards of beauty and you carry shame.
Daily criticism from those you respect will add up to shame.
Once you are shamed you try to make sense of it by believing you are getting what you deserve. You can find this in the souls of most sexually victimized women. They are of two minds. On the one hand they know they were victims of ungodly perpetrators. But right next to that conviction is an equally strong sense that they, somehow, deserved what they received. Even worse, they might think that God himself decreed the injustice as a form of punishment.
Be on guard; assume that shame always accumulates lies.
Effects of Shame
The verbally battered have been told that they are wretched and, once they get worn down, they believe it. Then they feel compelled to endure the abuse in silence because it is shameful to reveal that someone who is supposed to love them now berates them.
Shame connects three human experiences: feeling like an outcast, feeling naked, and feeling unclean. While everyone else is walking around with their clothes on, you feel exposed and vulnerable. You feel unclean like something is wrong with you, as if you are dirty.
Steps for Healing Out of Shame
The first steps will be the hardest. The first thing you need to do is shine light on the shame and bring it out in the open so you can see what you are fighting. When you see it for what it is you are going to need to wage war against it.
Second, know God’s words to the shamed are that you are acceptable and clean, not covered in dirt. He tells you that you will receive honor, value, and worth. You can be suspicious, as if God’s words are too good to be true. God’s love is an accepting love and you will want to turn toward him.
Third, even though shame is blended into our present human condition, you can be bold in the face of it because it can be removed. It is not removed through something you do; shame is tackled best in the context of relationship with God.
Do not allow shame to intimidate you into silence, get to know who you are as a beloved, chosen, adopted child of God (Ephesians 1:1-14). Look shame in the eyes and with the power of your acceptance in Christ tell it to get lost because you know the truth of who you are.
How has the power of your acceptance in Christ given you the courage to live a life of victory in Him?