Webster’s defines shame as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt,
shortcoming or impropriety, a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute,".
There is an important distinction between the two parts of this definition. The first
could be called “good shame”. We could have consciousness of guilt because we
have done something that is improper, sinful or illegal. We deserve this shame. It
helps us quit doing shameful things. The next definition is a condition of humiliating
disgrace or disrepute and is not necessarily deserved. This can take place when
someone gossips, criticizes, blames, calls us names, bullies, threatens, reports false
stories as if they are real and a myriad of other things.
We have heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will
never hurt me.” This is a lie. Names hurt most of us very much. They often define
our lives and cripple our potential. Names become our compass for life. We accept
other judgements of ourselves no matter how flawed and live life according to the
narrative others have spun of us.
We regret being fat, being less than, being too much, being incompetent, a failure
and any other label you could come up with. If there is a false label we have
accepted, we have regret attached to that label. We regret something that is not true
about us. We regret something we have not done, something that is a lie. Often, we
regret being born.
Labels steal our identity and cloud our ability to see who we really are. We live out
someone else’s fantasy, lie or narrative concerning our lives. Shame cripples us, yet
we rarely know it. When reading definitions of shame, we think “that is not me”, yet
we are guiding our life by shame because it masquerades as our own thoughts. As
children these thoughts became part of us and we say them often internally. The
“shame’s” narrative has become ours. Shame gave us a label, and that label is who
we see ourselves to be. “Shame, who me. No way. I am strong, self-sufficient, able.
I am no shame-regret cripple.” Think again.
The truth is we are all crippled by shame. We have been ever since Genesis 3 when
Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. They were ashamed because they were naked
and afraid. The first two fallen human emotions were shame and fear and they are
still our major roadblocks to wholeness today. Because fear and worship are the
same word in scripture, we see that the basis of worship and idolatry is fear.
Worship in Scripture often calls the worship of God the fear of God. We fear
rejection, so we worship men’s opinions. We add many little gods to our worship of
the one true God. The knowledge of good and evil brought us into fear and that
caused idolatry in our lives. This means we try to live life on our own terms, we
accept what others say about us when we are little so now we must cover up that
which shames us. It is not real, but we perceive it as real, so the great cover up
begins. We worship our ideas, our fear gods, our cover-ups and we rationalize, so
we can live with that which we perceive about ourselves and life, not seeing the lies
we believe. Oh, the futility of covering a lie. The many hours we spend rationalizing,
covering, creating masks to cover, fearing discovery, hiding and withdrawing.
These behaviors hobble our destiny and keep us from God, from truth, restoration
and our bride-hood. We live in the land of shame and regret instead of the Kingdom
of God. We have developed habits of grasping for life instead of living in God’s
peace. Self-fulfillment and self-sufficiency are gods we entertain until we get tired
with our striving. Like the Wizard of Oz someone pulls back the curtain, and we are
discovered. We feel shame again, but what we do not know is that God pulled back
the curtain, so He can show us the cover-up we are using. This is mercy mixed with
shame this time, so we can be set free from the shame we cannot identify.
We fear more than ever because bullying, name calling, and disrespect are on the
evening news, in our other media and the narratives of our lives. We want to belong
to others, but we must first belong only to Christ and our self and let Him be enough
before we will really belong to others.
God has called us no matter how messed up we are. In fulfilling our calling, we will
find our greatest challenge to our shame based living. Will be go against the flow?
There are always naysayers. Will we press in to God and do His will or will we
compromise so we can fit in the group we desire? Will we be true to our call and His
voice even when it brings us disrepute with certain people? Or will we like Joshua
accept God’s admonition?
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not
tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
God is with us. Why do we struggle with believing this? Fear and shame cloud our
vision. Fear of being shamed again, rejected again, hurt again keeps us bound to
our behaviors and ideologies. We must break their hold by facing the fear and
walking toward it. Think of fear this way. It is the ugliest, largest monster in the
world. You must look at fear and even name it. Fear of shame, fear of rejection, fear
of being an outcast again etc. Then walk toward the fear. Stare it down. Don’t
receive it. Life put it on you, but it does not belong to you unless you receive it. The
closer you get to the fear, the smaller it gets until like a cartoon there is a tiny pop as
it disappears. This takes courage. Be strong and courageous for God is with you
everywhere. He is there when you face down fear. He is there when rejection comes
again, and people hurt you while you are fulfilling His will. Jesus shows you they
were rejecting Him not you. Understanding dawns as you accept the process that
brings you to freedom.
We have another burden besides shame. That burden is regret. We regret what we
see as missed opportunities, broken relationships, broken lives and people we could
not fix with love. Regret includes neurotic patterns such as believing we must
perform for acceptance, believing if we cannot fix people it is our fault, striving to be
good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough or just plain enough. The ugly step
sister of regret is blame. Regret, blame and shame run a scenario in our minds that
is strong and compelling to keep us from facing down fear. We never want to feel
those emotions again, so we hide from them. This hiding condemns us to repeating
past mistakes. Only in facing the fear and walking toward it can we become free.
Often the voices of shame, blame and regret are so loud, and we are so crippled by
them we cannot conceive of facing down the fear behind them. We must stop their
narrative in our minds. We must take the thoughts captive they planted in us
perhaps decades ago.
2 Cor. 10:3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4
for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the
destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing
raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to
the obedience of Christ,”
Our war is against the lies of spiritual entities in the heavenly realms. We have
powerful weapons that have God’s power behind them. One of these weapons is the
word of God. The narrative the enemy has spun and implanted in the neurons of our
brain is a lie. God’s word is the truth. First, we must see how the lie works, then we
can bring the word of God against it. We do this to destroy speculations, narratives,
lies or thoughts that keep us from knowing God. In doing this we take every thought
captive and bring our thoughts in obedience to the word of God. This is how we
conquer the regret/shame thoughts that keep us from facing the fears that cripple
So, now let’s add the word of God to our methods to face down fear.
1John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear
involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” NASB
He loves us dearly. If we fear, we are not perceiving the love of God. We know all
fear is of the evil one, not God. Cry out for God to perfect you in receiving His love.
2Tim. 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and
of a sound mind.”
The word fear in this passage also means cowardice. No wonder God told Joshua
to be strong and courageous. Joshua had to pay no attention to the size of the
enemy or his armies. He had to keep his eyes and heart stayed on the promise of
God. God gave us power, love and a sound mind. This is a scripture we can quote
as we face our fears and walk toward them. Watch the fears shrink the more we
replace the old lies with this truth. We are given power, love and a sound mind.
Shout this if you must, but let it replace the fear thoughts.
Col. 2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you
have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;”
We have the fullness of God. He completes us, so we lack nothing. The word
complete means to fill us up continually. We do nothing to deserve this rather we
receive this at our new birth if we will have it. The King of Kings and the Lord of
Lords gives us this fullness. He is all powerful, but we must believe we have this.
The lie keeps us from receiving until we face it.
Jere. 19:11“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for
welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.12 ‘Then you will call
upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 ‘You will seek Me and
find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 ‘I will be found by you,’
declares the LORD, ‘”
We must become wholehearted seekers of God. Half way measures will not suffice.
We cannot sit on the fence. Choosing fear will not get us there. We will find Him
when we seek Him with our whole heart. He promises us this. In this process He
sets us free from those things that divide our hearts and keep us from Him. We
become wholehearted seekers of God with hearts that are whole, healed and
glorious to Him. There is nothing better in this life.
[i] Merriam Webster.com, Merriam-Webster nod Web 11, November 2017