Healing from Shame
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17
Are you ashamed of your life choices? Do you worry if those bad things were exposed, then your loved ones would reject you? Or do you experience anxiety in your work, so you are often spending late nights at the office or working after your kids go to bed because you worry that you are not good enough and fear that others are getting ahead of you. In referring to shame, I do not mean something that would cause you deep humiliation but the sense of “something is wrong with me” or “I am not good enough” or “I do not have what it takes to deal with this situation.” Shame’s streams of inadequacy run through our thought life and prevent us from being vulnerable. Vulnerability is the primary catalyst for healing. Instead we fear vulnerability will lead to alienation and rejection and could potentially threaten our professional or personal lives.
From the beginning of Genesis, shame is the weapon that the Enemy uses to destroy our relationship with God and others. Shame distracts us from discovering our gifting and fulfilling God’s purposes for mankind to impact the world for good in every sphere: managing money, loving your family and spouse, composing music, creating technology, writing books, teaching students, serving the community in political office, caring for patient’s medical needs, painting artwork, or building projects.
If we understand the Biblical narrative when shame entered the world: specifically Adam’s and Eve’s experience with shame and God’s response to their shame, then it will help us to expose the lies that shame creates in our minds about who were are and stop it from luring us into a spiral of alienation. Their nakedness without shame at the end of Genesis 2 sets up the primary role that shame will play as a result of sin in Genesis 3. Vulnerability of nakedness is the opposite of shame. The serpent engages the woman in a conversation, questioning what God said and tells her that she will not die. Have you questioned the implied meaning of what someone said? This line of thought often leads us to question their character.This is what happens here.
The woman starts to question what God really said because it does not align with what she is thinking and feeling: God is holding out on her. “God does not want you to be like Him.” “You are not good enough or as important as you think.” Questioning His love for her and their relationship started the spiral of alienation that sin causes with the first alteration of her memory. How many times have you changed your memory of a story when it causes you pain? Shame dissolves a sense of connection and security in a relationship. Don’t miss this! The serpent got her to talk about God rather than talk with God, as He could have cleared up what He said.
Shame always promises safety from the pain of vulnerability but instead delivers the pain of alienation. Upon eating the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, and they experienced fear for the first time because they were naked. Even when we sin God pursues us out of His love for us, just as He called out to Adam and Eve. We expect abandonment to be the consequence of sin, but instead God chooses the broken relationship because He loves us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, so that our relationship with God could be healed. Because of Jesus, we can put on the helmet of salvation to protect us from the fear of shame destroying our relationships (Ephesians 6:17). Confessing our negative emotions can stop us from falling into the spiral of shame. Honest vulnerability is the pathway to healing from shame and promotes healing in our relationships with God and others.
-Mary Carmen Englert