How to Find Freedom From the Weight of Childhood Shame

She lived her life mired in shame because of what happened to her as a child…now she shares how you too can break free.

Shame has tried to silence me my entire life.

Ever since I was four years old, ever since a man named Jackie, shame’s gnarly fingers have gripped my soul, choked me with its hateful whispers.

I thought this was normal. I thought it was true. And until recently, I couldn’t separate shame from my person-hood.

On dark, lonely nights, shame was there. On cold days and warm summers and in crowds and by myself, shame has always been there. And no big surprise, shame was happy to bring his friends along, too: insecurity, fear, and inferiority.

Want to know what shame feels like?  Shame tells you something bads wrong with you. You’re defective. You’ll never be worth anything. No one will listen. You don’t have anything valuable to contribute. Ever. You’ll never be enough. Sound familiar?

Together, shame and friends have worked to squelch my individuality, limit my creativity, mold me into a conformist, keep me silent and stagnant, and rob me of real intimacy.

Shame and friends have also driven me to thievery. Instead of receiving God’s good gifts… instead of trusting God’s intentions and waiting for His provisions… shame and his buds have driven me to go undercover, to sneak and steal, to take by illegitimate means things God is ready and willing to give had I simply asked.

Shame is not a friend.

Perhaps the most damaging thing shame does is lead us into idolatry. Because to get away from it, to escape its vicious voice, we looked for man’s approval.

I’ve done it. I’ve craved acceptance. I’ve performed and people pleased and I’ve told you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

Like Eve, I’ve tried to run and hide, covering myself with the leaves of performance and appearances instead of coming out in the open and letting God see me exposed and laid bare for what I am.

I’ve lived in hiding. Shamed.

You see, for a long time, I didn’t realize something amazing about shame: God provides a covering.

Right there in Genesis 3 it tells us. For the one who was once naked and UN-ashamed –but is now cowering in the corner– God seeks and calls us out of hiding. Because He has a covering. He has a solution for our shame. 

All over the Bible, the solution for shame is to clothe ourselves with the righteousness and beauty God provides.

 

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” Exodus 28:2

Romans 13:13-14 says it to us this way, “Let us live…not in discord and jealousy. Instead, let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” One translation says, “Clothe yourselves with Christ Jesus.”

You see, any time there is discord, jealousy, insecurity, comparison, shame, or condemnation in our hearts, it is a tell-tale sign that we need to clothe ourselves. Like Eve, we are naked and ashamed. We are in need of some garments of righteousness and salvation, for beauty and glory.

Most of us get dressed at least twice a day… once in the mornings and once at night, changing into pajamas. {Some of us get dressed more often than that!} It is the same with clothing ourselves with Christ. We need to come again and again to Christ, allowing our bare selves to be clothed in the provisions of Christ Jesus. He clothes us with forgiveness, redemption, purpose, grace, strength, dignity, wisdom, kindness, love, beauty, and so much more!

Shame lies. It tells you to avoid exposure at all costs. But God says no exposed, raw, laid -bare soul who runs to Him will ever be put to shame. Not the sinful woman. Not the outcast. Not the violated 4 year old with nowhere to turn.

God doesn’t dish shame, He removes it.

When we stand before Him naked and unclean… yes even vile… He does not cast us out but He touches us. He touches us!  In acceptance and mercy He reaches out and when He touches us, something incredible happens: His holiness removes our sin. Like Isaiah fell on his face before a Holy God, crying “Woe is me!” so our sin and the sins of others against us is indeed real and serious. Yet God Himself sees fit to touch us, cleanse our unholiness, and grant us a righteous covering.

He removes sin and silences shame.

The safest place for the sinful, shameful woman is to get bare before Jesus. In Him, you can overcome shame! Won’t you go to Him now?

Want to go deeper?

As women, we are prone to shame and insecurity. I believe this is one reason why we have so many records of Jesus encountering women in the gospels. Jesus came to show us the Father and give us visuals of how He relates to us and how He handles our shame.

If you are struggling with shame, take 30 minutes and look up the following two encounters. Visualize yourself as the woman in the story. Visualize Jesus’s face, His voice, His touch, His acceptance, His words to you. I’ve included some questions to help you.

The bleeding woman- Matthew 9:20-22
What was the shameful thing about this woman? What are the shameful things about you?
Why did this woman touch Jesus secretly? What are you trying to hide?
Why did Jesus call the woman and make her speak publically? Why do you think He didn’t allow her to have a quiet, private healing?

The Samaritan woman- John 4:1-42
Why was this woman drawing water in the middle of the day, alone? How has shame isolated you?
Jesus was not put off by this woman. How did Jesus communicate acceptance? Generosity?
What did Jesus know about this woman? What dark things does He know about you? What is He willing to give you?

Finally, here is Isaiah 61, as adapted by myself for myself as a shame-filled woman. May it bless you today.

{Jesus Speaking}:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor in spirit, the worthless, the passed over;

He has sent me to bind up the soul places shattered by shame, to pardon the sins of the guilty, to proclaim liberty and to open the prison to those bound by shame. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, not His condemnation, and the day of celebrating God’s triumph over our enemies.

He has sent me to comfort all who mourn; and not only that, to grant those who mourn certain gifts -a beautiful headdress instead of ashes -the oil of gladness instead of mourning -the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

These gifts are bestowed so that My daughters will be renamed. Instead of being called Unworthy, Defective, Not good Enough, they will be called Oaks of Righteousness, Pillars and Plantings of the Lord. For God is glorified in their transformation!

These daughters shall go on to build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; all the ruin of their past will they bring to new life. They will overcome the destruction and repair the brokenness, even that brokenness rooted in generations past.

You, daughter, will even go so far as to be called a holy woman of God and will be spoken of as a minister of the Lord God. It will be like this: Instead of your shame, you will have a double anointing. Instead of dishonor, you will rejoice in your lot. Therefore you will possess a double blessing and have everlasting joy.”

{My response}:
“I will begin singing even now unto God. I will praise Him from the depth of my soul… because He has clothed me in a robe of righteousness. He has dressed me in honor and dignity and purity and salvation. God is praised, for He brings righteousness to fruition and puts His glory on display for all to see.”

Amen and amen!

This is part of a series on self worth. I’ve been encouraged to hear from my sisters Kathy, Kerry, and Jennifer via Leah on the subject of value and self worth.

Tune in next week for more in this series as Jen shares her story. May we each live clothed and graced this week, friends!

Arabah Joy
Arabah Joy is wife to Jackson, adoptive and biological mom to 4 little ones, and missionary to East Asia. Her adventures span far and wide, from eating pig snouts to giving birth in three different Asian countries. Mostly though, she is a broken woman redeemed by grace. She has written several books including the 40 day devotional, Trust Without Borders. You can find out more and connect with her at ArabahJoy.com.

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