“Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed” (Psalm 25:3)
Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
Shame is a debilitating thing to carry around. The longer one does so, the more onerous it becomes. Regardless of whether the shame stems from something a person has done, participated in or was done to them (in which one is considered a participant) the weight of it can literally side-track a life; hold one back from having a peaceful, productive existence. Along with shame often comes unforgivingness toward others and especially, oneself.
Unforgivingness toward oneself is often the root cause of disease (right up there with bitterness, anger and poor self-worth); having been witness to, and the product of, the effects and power forgiving thyself can have, how it can change a life in a short period of time, it’s very much worth considering.
If you noticed, I stated that I was the product of self-forgiveness –this came at the same time I learned the benefit of letting my shame go. This after understanding how all that had occurred in my life, both by the hand of others and of my own doing, would hinder me forever if I did not take this path. What it did for me, on many levels, is a tremendous testimony to the power of God working in my life. I say this for if it not for my newly minted relationship with Christ Jesus, I would never have come to understand it even possible to let it go or the importance of forgiving myself.
Forgiveness is a sacred, spiritual act which can have instant results. We are called by God and told by Jesus to forgive. In fact, we are instructed by Jesus in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:12) to ask God to “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Debts, in this passage, in the Greek, is the word opheilema – a fault (such as a human quality). Why would we ask God to forgive us our trespasses and faults, yet not forgive ourselves of them?
The shame I carried was so deep-rooted, I was not aware of it, nor did I comprehend how it affected all areas of my life: It was born after being molested as a young child. This was not an isolated incident and in turn, it manifested again and again; inviting a spirit of victimization in, which attached itself to me. This from not only my own abuse but things which transpired in my family. (I am not giving detail to protect my family members but I give myself permission to detail my life here.)
I was shamed by another person’s actions, in turn their actions had consequences that led to a lifetime of manifested behavior I seemingly had no control over.
I forgave my abuser when I was 19. At the same time I also chose to forgive my earthly father for abandoning me (another source of shame) twice in one lifetime. Apparently, I had forgiving others down! (Mat 6:14) This was a good thing. I don’t know where I learned it, so presume it was mandated to me by God. However, it took another 16 years for me to understand that I had left out an imperative step in relieving myself of much trauma and pain.
Missing the step of self-forgiveness kept me on a downward slope for most of my 20’s. My life looked nothing like I’d hoped it would at age 18. I was a lost little girl, in a grown up body and with a very adult mind. Incidentally, the loss of my innocence at age 3 probably meant I was never truly a little girl, emotionally. I’d always had grown up responses and responsibilities.
By the time my life started to look bleak I had experienced things I never anticipated. I didn’t understand what I was looking at but I was desperate too. Finally, in 2009, something happened to me. After 3 of the most difficult years of my life (and I’d been through a lot…this was just my personal “breaking point”), feeling like I no longer had any control over outcomes…it took the death of people I loved, within months of one another, for me to relent and stop asking “why.” It took the example of someone whose loss was so much greater than my own, to get me to remember something, or rather someone, important: God.
I won’t go into all the details here…but I will tell you that when He finally got me where he wanted me; where I truly could no longer run away…I sat obediently in a church sanctuary for 50 hours, across 5 days, and learned the absolute truth about my life. My eyes and my heart, from that point on, were wide-open. Then the moment came where I heard the good news that Christ Jesus would free me of my sorrows, heal my shattered heart and uplift my wounded spirit if I just remembered and accepted Him…the words “I love you” never meant more to me. The words “I forgive you daughter” had never been spoken over me louder.
Comprehending for the first time that I had been bearing a false burden for the transgressions performed against me as a child and henceforth, was a wonderfully freeing thing. The lifetime of shame was not my fault and I no longer had to carry it around my neck like an albatross. Many months later, I received a message in my heart and spirit that it was time… “Time for what,” I asked of God. His answer: I now needed to repent for those other things I had done or participated in, throughout my life, and finally set them free by forgiving myself. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about exactly but He certainly showed me. Talk about a mouth on the floor moment! There were things I had completely forgotten about…but God doesn’t forget. He spoke to me very gently, made me see how my actions had affected others; that even if I didn’t mean to hurt…I did.
There was one thing from childhood that took some time for me to release; it was so hard to forgive myself because I literally recalled the memory of the consequence of my actions. But, He insisted…in fact, God was pretty much on my back, until I finally handed that one thing…that final smidgen of shame…over to Him, so that he could erase it from my heart. This act of love toward myself was the best gift I may have ever given myself.
I implore you now…if you carry around shame to please have a conversation with Jesus. It may be the most important conversation you ever have and trust me when I tell you how much He wants to hear what you have to say.