It’s the heavy burden you carry across your shoulders, hoping no one will see the “fraud” you feel like.
It’s the nagging voice in the back of your head that whispers, “You’re the only one that deals with this. It’s weird. No one will understand.”
Shame is the constant pang of discouragement that envelopes even the best days. No matter how bright the sun is shining, shame takes the joy away.
Like an ever-tightening noose ‘round the thick of your neck, shame slowly tightens its grip. Like a type of soul-asphyxiation, truth escapes like oxygen and you start to lose your ability to see reality and hope.
Although every struggle is different, shame uses the same strategic game plan: to stabilize, seduce, and suffocate.
Shame’s first move is to encourage the victim to stay in the same thought patterns, unhealthy behaviors, and emotional reactions. The longer the victim stays in position, shame is able to stabilize the victim where they are less able (and likely) to move. Shame seduces the victim by feeding her lies that say, “You’ll never leave this place. This is always how it’s going to be. You’re just so different from everyone else–they won’t get it. Keep this a secret.”
Suffocation and soul-asphyxiation begin to set in and the victim loses her ability to see. Instead of seeing the truth, she is convinced the world is “perfect” and she’s the only one struggling. She no longer recognizes grace, redemption and reconciliation–the only thing she can see is herself.
The ugly truth about shame is that it turns us inward, causing us to focus solely on our shortcomings, our not-enoughness, and our struggle to find a way out. A harrowingly inward gaze leaves no room to see that 1. others around us are struggling too and 2. God is the only one capable of true rescue. An inward gaze will always keep us stuck in a shame haze.
An inward gaze will always keep us stuck in a shame-haze. Click To Tweet
Feeling stuck in a shame spiral is such a miserable place to be, am I right? It’s disheartening, discouraging and one of the loneliest feelings. When self-help isn’t helping and self-worth messages aren’t working, how do we shut up the voice of shame and break free from it’s grip?
Shutting Shame Up
Shame’s game is to keep us so fixated on what’s going on inside that we’re unable to see God’s ability to rescue us and the relief we can find through vulnerability with other people. If we want to shut up the voice of shame, we must do the opposite of what it asks of us: we must turn outward. We can turn outward by doing three things:
1. Fix Your Eyes Back on the Gospel
I’m gonna be honest. My friends use this exact phrase when I’m in a dumpy place, and it sort of drives me nuts. In the moment, I think, “Guys! Stop giving me churchy answers that aren’t practical. Yes, Jesus saves us for eternity. But that doesn’t help me get out of this.”
Except that it does.
When we have the perspective that the Gospel is a one and done deal, we completely miss the point and the power of it. The beauty of the Gospel is not only in Jesus rescuing us from eternal separation and giving us new life, there’s more. “Once we trust in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we receive the promise of future resurrection, but resurrection is also here and now. Our entire lives become a cycle of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, death and rebirth. Death and rebirth is not one far off experience awaiting us in eternity, but an entire way of life. (Free of Me, 173). Jesus continues to rescue us from these pits we walk ourselves into and He teaches us how to walk out this new life in freedom.
One of the first steps to getting out of a shame spiral is to do what Sharon Hodde Miller says in her book Free of Me: raise your gaze. If the pull of shame is inward, then we must do the exact opposite of what it wants: turn outward and upward. Look to the Great Rescuer. Give Him access to your struggle and shame so that He can start to heal it. Fix your eyes on the truth of the Gospel: you don’t have to be enough, because He’s enough and that’s enough.
2. Confess, Confess and Lose the Stress
The word confess makes me sort of want to cry. I don’t like confessing ugly stuff. But I do like the end result at the same time. There’s something about confession that breaks the power of shame. Shame calls us to hide and bury, and confession beckons us to call it out and name it.
Find a “safe friend”–one who is wise, confidential, truthful and graceful. Confession is hard, but confiding in a safe friend can be a soothing balm. Especially those friends who point you back to the gospel, even when you think it’s not “practical”. (Sorry, best friends. Thank you for loving me even when I’m dumb.)
3. Don’t Just Give Yourself Grace–Receive It
Take a deep breath and remember– you’re a work in progress. YES! That means you don’t have to be perfect, by golly. You can throw that out to the birds. There is so much peace that comes when we realize we’re not finished yet and God isn’t either. Does that mean we lackadaisically stay stuck in unhealthy patterns and lifestyles? Heck no. It means we receive God’s grace and BY His grace we get outta dodge.
We receive His grace by realizing He doesn’t love us any less because we struggle, but rather believing He loves us too much to let us stay there. Receive His grace, His acceptance of you as His kid, and follow His lead as He yanks you out of that shame spiral and into the “wide places” where we can run free.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
Psalm 18:16-19 (NIV)
We are freed from shame when we recognize it’s game, fix our eyes on Jesus, and allow ourselves to receive grace both from God and others through confession. Only then will the voice of shame start to dwindle as we press more and more into loving voice of the Father.