This past weekend my husband and I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference — our topic: shame and fear — issues we know all too well. We were given one of the afternoon breakout sessions, and I had thought that we’d get a handful of people.
I was wrong. Our room was packed with about 50 women, some who ended up sitting on the floor and others on the window sill.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and prayed. This was going to be hard, but I knew I had to do it. It was for me just as much as for those who’d showed up.
Shame and rejection go hand in hand and maybe like me you’ve had your share of it and can relate to the pain it brings. But I’m learning that there is healing and a way out.
The root of my shame began in my childhood, but I didn’t realize how deeply hidden the pain was until my children came along.
Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was in preschool, she came home and burst into tears. She’d had another hard day at school. One of the kids had called her “cernoska,” meaning black, and had made fun of her skin color.
She felt rejected just because she was darker than everyone else in the classroom. And on top of that, she was a foreigner.
As I held her in my arms, I fought hard to keep my own tears. Seeing her feel the pain of rejection touched deep wounds of shame and fear. Like her, I also felt out of place living in Czech society – everywhere I went, people seemed to treat me differently because of the way I looked.
Seeing my daughter hurt so much, motivated me to finally get help and to stop pretending that everything was ok. On the outside, I managed to put up a pretty good façade. I was a “brave” American missionary sacrificing my life for God living in Eastern Europe. But on the inside I was hurting and did not know how to help my daughter.
Thankfully, at that time, a group of friends from England were visiting us and the pastor invited me to a week-long conference called, From Shame to Honor.
I traveled to England and there at that conference, I began to unravel what I’d been living with all my life. It was not an easy process. I cried a lot of tears. I had bundled so much pain, resentment, anger, rejection and unforgiveness in my hidden room of shame.
My time there set me on a life-long journey of finding healing from a shame-based life to living in the freedom of being a child of God.
The way out
Look to Jesus. The way out of the shame pit begins with looking to our Heavenly Father because in looking to Him, we find our identity – our true identity.
When I look to my shame, I get stuck. I begin to hear negative voices that further hurl me to the bottomless shame pit.
“You’re no good. Can’t do a simple thing right. You’re failure as a mother, as a missionary, as a teacher …” And on and on it goes.
Physically, my head begins to feel squeezed from all sides, and I feel nauseous. Life begins to seem too hard and unmanageable.
But God’s Word says, “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not shamed.” When I look to my Heavenly Father, I’m reminded that I’m His daughter, deeply loved and accepted just as I am.
This was one of key things I learned at that conference. My self-worth was not at all based on what I could accomplish or do. Rather my worth comes from my Heavenly Father and who He created me to be.
My shame is covered by the blood of Jesus and my Heavenly Father sees me as perfect. He says, “Beloved you are perfect.” Why? Because when God sees us, He sees Jesus.
While I knew and believed in my head that God loved me, I had a hard time receiving this in my heart. It was so much easier to believe it for anyone else but me. Years of living in shame had built hardened walls around my heart.
And the process of breaking down those walls has taken years, but I’m beginning to really see how much my Heavenly Father loves me, how He delights in me and is proud of me.
We find our healing from shame, when we look to Jesus and His great love for us. But it’s a choice we must make daily to believe Him and not the lies of the enemy.
Finding a safe community
If you’ve never opened the door to your “shame room” this may sound impossible to do and alone you can’t do it. But with God’s help and with the help trusted friends you can.
Not all of us may have friends with whom we can be vulnerable and openly share our shame. So you have to be careful and sometimes you may have to talk to a Christian counselor or a pastor.
There is nothing worse than have a friend say, “You poor thing.” Or have them completely disagree with you and tell you not to feel that way and offer ways to “fix” you.
At the conference in England, I shared with the other attendees and leaders, what I was so ashamed of. I told them how I was born in a small village on the shores of Lake Titicaca and that the only way to get there was on mud roads. And with tears welling up from deep within, I said, “I’m a Peruvian Indian and God loves me.”
Doing that unshackled me from a life-long bondage to the secrecy of my hidden shame. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m writing it here – in hopes that it might encourage others do the same.
At the end of our talk this weekend, several ladies came up and shared their stories of shame and fear, and we were honored to be able to pray with them and help them begin their journey of finding healing and freedom.