I heard it on occasion, “Shame on you!”
Sometimes a gasp was associated with the shock of me violating some mysterious social expectation. Other times the tone was teasing, trying to be harmless.
However, anytime I heard those words, they hit their mark. Shame shook me inside and the tremors drove me to hide myself away, my attempt to cease being seen. To be absent was better than shame.
Shame is a powerful force.
What God intended for good Satan once again perverted. Shame was supposed to let us know when we did something wrong. Some psychologists call this type of shame guilt and it is a good emotion, we should feel guilt when we have done wrong.
Toxic shame is quite a different experience. Toxic shame says, I am wrong, I am made wrong, something is defective in me, no one could love someone like me, I’m not worth the fight, I’m not worth the struggle to be loved. Toxic shame causes us to wait for the bad that will inevitably come our way.
Abuse is certainly a fast way to acquire toxic shame but I imagine other wounds lend themselves to those same feelings. A couple struggling with infertility might feel that they are made wrong or defective. A spouse, abandoned through a divorce, might carry the feelings of being un-loveable or too much work. Even the loss of a job can jolt you into trauma that just keeps on giving shame as the lack of finances start adding items to the bundle; car, dog, house, etc.
So what do we do about toxic shame?
Take that which is hidden in darkness and bring it to the light of Christ. Toxic shame is owning the shame that belongs to another.
“Because feeling shame is an uncomfortable feeling that makes us want to hide, we may want to hide from the truth by denying or minimizing our wounds. By protecting ourselves with these kinds of thoughts the pain is temporarily lessened. However, the dangerous reality is that shame multiplies in the dark. Denying the truth is choosing to live as a phantom in a fantasy rather than as a living, breathing person in the real world. And it is in this real world and as a real person that God has called us to live, something Jesus described as walking or continuing in the truth (John 8:31-32; Ephesians 4:25; Titus 1:1)” Celestia G. Tracy, Mending the Soul Workbook, page 121.
Are you ready to stop living as a phantom in a fantasy?
- Identify when your shame is triggered
- Understand the roots of your shame
- Give the shame back to the one who really owns it
- And own your healthy shame (I like to call it guilt) for those things you do wrong.
For more information on shame I recommend:
Mending The Soul by Steven R. Tracy (healing from abuse)
I Thought It Was Just Me by Brené Brown (a secular book on the study of shame)
Great post, Cheryl!
Thanks Unshakable ~ I’m wrestling through a lot of shame in my healing process. It’s amazing how quickly it flees when you can see it for what it is. “For we shall know the truth and the truth will set us FREE!” Have you found a particular struggle with shame? I remember that your faith is walking you through ALS, have you found a battle with some kind of shame due to the chronic illness?
I am ashamed of things I’ve said and done, but I have realized it’s not God’s will for me to feel shame for things He’s forgiven me for. Now, when I start to feel shame and regret, I immediately begin thanking God for forgiving me. I find this to be a powerful antidote.
You are so right Unshakable! Gratitude reminds us of the truth! Thanks for sharing your struggle with us and the personal choice you have made to fight shame! I will put it to use this week 🙂