Low-Down, Dirty Shame
There was a book in the 1980s that became very popular for its attempt to understand human reactions to the stresses of life. The basic premise of “Dinosaur Brains” was that human beings were just like the dinosaurs when it came to responding during tense situations. The book claimed we responded with either “fight or flight.” The “fight” reaction caused us to stand our ground, build up our defenses and begin to battle. “Flight” meant that we sensed that there was way too much danger and, instead of digging in for the battle, we ran away to seek safe ground. The author believed that this basic fight-or-flight mechanism was the strongest motivation for humans. I disagree!
I believe that there is a much stronger motivation that can bring out the worst in all human beings. That motivation is the emotion called shame. Unlike the instantaneous reaction of fight or flight, shame is a quiet and insidious emotion that takes its toll over a lifetime of thinking about and reliving events that caused us embarrassment in the past. Shame does, however, have a purpose. The fear of experiencing shame can sometimes keep us from doing the wrong things, like breaking the law or doing harm to another human being.
For many, shame is caused by carrying guilt over something that we have done in the past, or something that we continue to do. Perhaps our anger gets out of control from time to time and we say things for which we are embarrassed or ashamed. Or, perhaps we enable or allow other people to behave poorly, afraid to confront them because of what they may say or do to us. Another reason for shame is the inability to stop participating in a bad habit or to break an addiction.
What makes shame an even more powerful force in our lives is that it is not only caused by what we have done, but also by what has been done to us by others. People sometimes do terrible things to others for the sake of amusement, or to meet their own needs. This is simply wrong and can’t be justified. The guilt and shame that this places on the victim is a burden that can take a lifetime to overcome. If you have had something terrible happen to you at someone else’s hand, and you are carrying the burden of shame because of it, please know that there is help out there for you. Lighthouse Network can connect you to treatment situations or provide helpful resources if you or someone you love is carrying the shame associated with addictions or past abuse.
Strive to make better decisions each day. If you carry the burden of what others have done to you, commit to seek help in that area of your life. But in either situation, know that God loves you just the way you are. He proved his love for us by sending his Son to take away the debilitating shame and guilt of sin in our lives by dying on the cross for us.
Whether you live with joy and acceptance or you are dying from shame, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m tired of carrying the burden of shame I feel each and every day. I know this is holding me back and I come to you to relieve my burden. Even though I know that You have made me in Your image and that You have called me Your child, I confess that I don’t always believe that I am worthy of dignity and honor or that I am cherished by You. I pray, dear Father, that You will touch my heart and allow me to sense Your amazing love for me. I pray that You will take this burden from me so that I might have life and live it abundantly, knowing that I am Your cherished possession. I pray this in Jesus’ shame-lifting name. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7
"As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:11
“And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at his coming.” 1 John 2:28