Today I want to discuss a topic which has been stirring in me for a long time, the destructive power of shame. You may or may not realise but because of shame – you have already forfeited more potential than the world will ever take from you. Shame has the power, if you allow it, to drive you into an eating disorder, depression, suicide, into a life that you hate. All of us who carry shame are forced to walk around in chains unable to find happiness or joy. This is not how anyone wants to live.
Shame is very different to guilt. Guilt is a healthy positive emotion which allows us to realise we have done something wrong. A world without guilt would be a cold harsh world. Guilt helps us establish healthy relationships with ourselves, others and with God. As humans we are all imperfect and we all do things we regret, however guilt allows us to express “I am sorry for what I did” and in the process acknowledge behaviours we feel are wrong. It is a gift used for the restoration of relationships, an acknowledgement of failure and a desire to not repeat this behaviour again. It is an opportunity for repentance and it allows opportunity for forgiveness*. Guilt is the only way we can grow into better people, and into stronger relationships.
*Forgiveness is not always possible or given freely. This is not a reflection of you and it does not mean that you need to stay in that place of guilt. Sometimes you must forgive yourself.
Where guilt expresses “I am sorry for what I did”, shame expresses “I am sorry for who I am”. Guilt acknowledges a bad choice, shame indicts a bad person. Shame ignores your good choices, your human imperfection and your willingness to change. At first it whispers in your ear telling you “it’s not a big deal, there’s no need to acknowledge it”, “if you do acknowledge it, it will define you, and so it’s best to lock it away and ignore it”. However, what started out as a whisper is now shouting so loudly you can’t hear anything else. You can’t hear the compliments your partner gives you, the promotion at work, the new friend you made, and most sad thing you can’t even hear the grace of God. You can’t hear that you’ve already been forgiven. You can’t hear that you are his child, his creation and he loves you so much despite the mistakes you have made, the bad choices are making and those that you are inevitably going to make.
The only way to abolish shame is to open those closed doors. To admit to those things that you don’t want anyone to see, your lies, your mental health, your sugar addiction, your porn addiction, your anger, whatever it is you have tried to ignore and disregard as “no big deal”. This revelation doesn’t have to be done for the entire world to see, but it is important that you acknowledge these things to someone you love and trust, or even a counsellor.
I have been through some counselling recently and found that the shame of some of the things I have been carrying around were so big I found myself lying/withholding information from my counsellor. How ridiculous is that? I couldn’t even open up to someone whom I was paying to help me process my emotions in a judgement-free, safe space. This showed me how powerful and destructive shame can be.
No more will I allow shame to prevent me from living my best life. No more will I allow this closed door to deny me my destiny, my potential and my happiness. I have already begun the process of opening the various doors I have had locked tight for several years and wow – there is so much freedom in opening up. This is not an over-night process. There might be different people you will need to speak to about various different things and it might not be appropriate to have this conversation over the phone. Don’t wait too long, the longer you wait, the louder the voice gets and the more potential and happiness you miss out on.
Have you struggled with shame? Are you “ashamed” of the person you are or the things you have done? Message me privately via email@example.com or comment below and I will do everything in my power to help you overcome this soul-destroying emotion.