“Shame is a soul eating emotion.” ― C.G. Jung
I’ve never read a quote that so perfectly described something in my life. Anyone who has ever dealt with any kind of shame understands this “soul eating” like no other.
Shame is a tricky thing. It’s not an act you can commit, yet once you do something that lets shame in, it controls pretty much every aspect of your life. What’s strange about shame is that it can either be brought on by something you did (messing up and feeling ashamed later), or it can be brought on by something that happened to you (something you had absolutely no control over).
*This post is about to get all sorts of personal. I’m going to use an example of a time I brought shame on myself and a time that shame was put on me without me having any control over it. I’m going to go through how shame controlled how I spoke, how I acted, and how I treated other people. So read on please, and I hope that this little look into my life story will help people who are also dealing with shame. *
We’ll start with shame I brought upon myself. I failed out of college. My GPA was a whopping 2.3 and that’s unacceptable, so I got kicked out. Over Christmas break of 2010, I snuck back to school when everyone was gone, packed up my dorm room in a whirlwind, texted my roommate and told her that I wasn’t coming back, and then hid at home for a few weeks. I brought this one upon myself. I knew I was failing. I had gotten the letters from school telling me, and yet I still thought having fun and hanging out was more important. Up until just recently, when people asked me why I “transferred” to the school I am at now, I lied and told them it was for financial reasons. That’s what I like to call a “shame says.” Shame says, “I can lie about this. It’s technically true and no one needs to know the real truth.” But that’s not true. By continually telling this lie, all I was doing was letting shame tighten its grasp on me. I told that lie so many times I started to believe it myself. Shame says, “You totally transferred to save money.” Anytime a group of people starting talking about school and I knew they were going to ask me where I went, my mind starting coming up with what I was going to say. Shame had an entire arsenal of responses to save me from being embarrassed or looking dumb. All the while, shame would make me feel terrible for lying and would tell me how dumb I “really was.”
Shame makes you keep things inside to save face. It tells you that people will make fun of you, that you’re stupid, that people will look at you differently, and in the end no one will be your friend. Every time you let a “shame says” speak instead of you, you’re letting it beat you up a little bit more.
Now onto shame that was put on me. I’ve been molested 3 times in my life. Once when I was 9, again when I was 15, and again when I was 17. Now there is a ton of stuff that comes along with any type of sexual abuse. And thank God for my parents and their love and help. When I finally told them about these things, I was able to really work through some things, but shame is the big thing that comes along with this. Each time it happened, I thought that somehow I had wanted it to happen or had asked for it in the sense of “leading someone on” or just not saying no. I felt weak and disgusting each time it happened because I had shame telling me “I deserved it,” and “I wanted it and liked it.” This shame made me not talk about it at all. Instead of having shame say things for me, it controlled how I acted. I became extremely closed off around everyone. When I was in relationships, it made me think that the only way to know that the guy loved or valued me was through physical acts. It made me so self aware of how I dressed and how I spoke. It completely controlled my interactions people, and it still does. I’m so much more aware of it now, and I’m still walking through ridding it from my life.
If anything like this has ever happened to you, you know that shame becomes a big aspect of your life, and it’s scary. It’s upsetting, and it makes you feel sick, stressed, annoyed and angry whenever the topic comes up. But there is good news. Shame is something that can be beat. It’s not so big that it will win. You can overcome it. If it’s shame you brought upon yourself—stop lying to other people about it. You’re not the first person to deal with whatever it is. You could be missing out on meeting other people who are dealing with the same thing. There is strength in numbers. Start with being honest with others, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to be honest with yourself and not hate yourself for it. If it’s shame that has been put on you—let me tell you something: no matter what the circumstances were (or are) you do not deserve this. You did nothing wrong, and even if you did, you don’t deserve to be constantly beat up over it. Seek help. Find someone who loves you and confide in them. It will help. I promise.
Romans 10:11 – The Scripture says, “No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed.”
God never intended for us to live in shame. He died so that we could live freely. He did His part, so now we have to do our part. It’s up to us to take Him at His word and believe for shame to be broken.