Shame is the sensation a person receives when they do something wrong, like the morning after they’ve drank too much and realize they made a fool of themselves. As long as they recognize the shame, learn from it and use it to spur them into a better direction, such as not drinking too much, it can be a useful tool.
Shame is defined as:
“a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
If shame, as a tool, could stay in its rightful place on the shelf until needed, it would be okay. But shame rarely stays in its proper place. It’s not shame’s fault. We as people take the tool down and misuse it.
I have done this frequently with my past mistakes. Every time a memory comes up where I acted foolishly or made a wrong choice, I feel the sting of shame creep up on my face. I push the memories back down and say it is covered by Jesus’ death on the cross. That is true, but because I push the memory away due to shame, I never learn what God wants me to learn from those memories. They can not be fully redeemed.
There is one shameful memory that keeps coming back to me over and over again. It is something I have never told anyone ever, not even my husband. This one memory has haunted me and fills me with shame every time it pops up.
The last few months I have been on this journey of not hiding from my feelings. I am on this journey of allowing my feelings to rise to the surface, exam them and then let them vaporize and blow away instead of stuffing them back down.(1) I was walking along the seawall one morning and this memory came to my mind once again. The familiar shame crept like a shade to the surface. I pushed it down as usual stating,
“I’ve been forgiven for this. I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
That is true, but it wasn’t allowing me to learn what I needed to learn from that mistake. It wasn’t allowing me to feel the feeling and let it go. I took the memory and asked God what he wanted me to see when I remembered it. What did he want me to feel? How did he feel when it happened and how does he feel now about it?
I put the memory in a glass box and examined it from all sides. I felt the shame still there, but not as strong. I began to look at the girl who made the poor choice. She was so young and desperate. She had all this hurt, which had not been dealt with. She was so strong for even functioning. Yes the girl, me, did make a mistake and it was my fault, but there were so many other circumstances surrounding that choice. I thought about if it were someone else’s life? What if I was reading a book, from birth until this poor choice. I would actually expect this choice of that person. It would not have come as a surprise and I would have wanted to hold that person, comfort them and tell them they were just looking for answers in the wrong place. Looking for something that only God can supply.
In doing this examination, I felt such sympathy for the young girl. I felt sympathy for me. The shame disappeared. Love filled the hole that shame left. I learned many more things from the examination. I’m no longer afraid of the memory.
It is no longer a specter lurking in the shadows.
I couldn’t think of a good song from this topic, but I like this song: Come Away From Jesus Culture