There are certain things I just can’t settle for anymore. Like bad coffee. I’d rather pass on that and have a headache and be grumpy. But when I first started drinking it, any kind would do. I didn’t yet know the difference between French press vs truck stop quality.
Or trying to finish a book that’s sort of meh. There are too many great books out there. I’m not wasting my time. But there was a time when I would have made myself endure that book to the end so I could check it off my list, falsely reassuring myself that such a trivial thing contributed to my worth somehow. We do this, don’t we? Allowing our worth to be determined by insignificant things.
I have also learned not to settle anymore for the lie of shame. Not to waste years of my life weighed down by the heaviness of carrying something I am not meant to carry at all. You may read that and think that my escape from the condemning voice of it was easy. I fought through hell, self torment, tears and exhaustion before throwing my hands up and collapsing in surrender. The journey took longer than I wish it had. I had to learn and relearn to cast it down and replace the lies with truth.
I sure hope the journey will be shorter for you. You do get to choose you know.
Shame is different than guilt. Shame is heavier. Deeper penetrating to the soul. Shame is more than just feeling bad about an action or choice. Shame is feeling bad about who you are as a person. Like somewhere deep down you are inherently bad. It will leave you living your life as though you’re offering an apology to the world that is not owed, like you are sorry for who you are.
There are things that get built into us over the course of our lives. I once heard a girl describe her relationship with her mother like this: “You built me full of shame.”
It struck me.
The things that happen in our lives that build us into the people we become.
I stood before a judge once. Let me just tell you that there are few things worse than standing before someone who is about to measure out before you the punishment for something you are guilty of and deserve. It was….awful.
This is an excerpt from the book I am currently writing about that experience:
“I felt sorry for everything in that moment, like I had never done anything right in my whole life. Like maybe I was just bad or inherently wrong deep down to the core. I felt like this might even be how God felt about me. In fact, I was quite sure of it. I felt as though God hated me in that moment. And I was okay with it. Because I hated me too.”
Yes, sometimes things happen that build shame into us. Not just in dark and dramatic stories seared by trauma.
I see it all around me, even in less dramatic and more ordinary stories.
The recognition of it grieves me because I’ve lived it. I know the weight of carrying such a heavy thing in the heart. Shame will keep you stuck in life. Stuck and hindered from becoming the person you long to be.
Shame will leave you with nagging questions seeped in regret.
Was I good enough of a mother? Maybe if I had prayed more. Maybe if I had disciplined more. Or listened more. Maybe then the outcome would be different.
But maybe you did the best you could and your child has free will and the freedom to choose the wrong things.
It will leave you with distorted identity. In seeking your identity in your work, in who you know, or in who knows you. In the amount of likes and shares you get. Only to neglect the people and things that truly matter and to wake up alone and realize none of those things you were chasing brought you the peace and acceptance of knowing who you are down deep.
It will leave you thinking that the abandonment by someone who should have loved you was somehow your fault. Like maybe dad never came around because there is something wrong with me. Like maybe I’m not enough. Maybe I’m not worth sticking around for. Maybe the issue isn’t with you at all, but with another person’s inability to give love.
It will leave you convinced you are living out some deserved punishment from a cruel and punishing God. This one goes all the way back to the garden, when Adam and Eve hid from God because of a sudden awareness that they were naked. Exposed and ashamed. God’s question to them being, “Who told you that you were naked?”
I think He asks the same of you and me…..Who told you that you were not enough? Who told you to carry shame?
A few days ago, I went for a walk by the river near my house. At one point on my walk, I looked to my right and saw from a distance the street that leads to my mom’s house. I broke down. In the moment, I had no idea why. I talk to her everyday and see her often. I couldn’t understand what was going on internally.
After some praying and processing, this is what I now understand. I am in a season of a lot of unknowns. And unknowns can be scary. And my mom feels like home. Like a safe place that I can run to where fears will be calmed, reassurance will be given and I will be reminded of what is true.
Someone asked me recently, “how do I lay down my shame?” My answer is this: You run home to truth. To the reminder of who God says you are, to who you were before shame told you who you are not.
To the truth that you are enough. You are worthy. You are wholly acceptable through and through.