The Voice of Shame

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Do you feel that culture has influenced you to focus on your physical appearance in an unhealthy way spiritually or emotionally?

Last week in the grocery store checkout line, my eyes were drawn to a magazine designed to make every woman in America feel guilty. You know the kind. It’s the kind with the super model on the cover looking like she was dipped in bronze. Her white teeth, perfect hair and perfect body make you think, “She looks like she doesn’t have any problems. I'll bet her friends are nice and her boyfriend is amazing.”

While I waited in line to pay for my apples and potato chips, I was mentally drawn to compare my body to hers. “My hips used to look like that and my hair used to be that long and beautiful." By the time I reached the cashier, there was a tiny voice of shame inside me saying, “You are not enough."

No one is a stranger to the voice of shame because it’s the voice of the Accuser in Revelation 12:10. It’s the voice that reminds you that you just don’t cut it. It speaks to both men and women through cultural messages saying that to be enough they’ve got to look perfect. It’s the voice that says, Your nose is too big; your lips are too small. You need this pumped up and that deflated. You need plastic surgery—and you definitely don’t have a body like Ms. I’m-on-the-Cover-of-Vogue. You really should be ashamed of yourself.

It wouldn’t be so horrible if the goal of the voice of shame was just to make you feel bad. If that were true, every woman would see the magazine, feel a twinge of guilt, and go on her merry way without thinking again about it. But the goal of the voice of shame is always to make you own shame - because when you do, shame can control you. And control is always the goal of the voice of shame, because when you are controlled you cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life.

No doubt, people who are controlled by the voice of shame, and who obsesses about their waistlines, will neglect important issues that are close to the heart of God.

For example, when shame drives body image, your relationships could suffer. When you should be worrying about caring for someone’s emotional and spiritual needs, your energy will be focused on yourself. When shame drives body image, you may spend an obsessive amount of time at the gym when you should live a more balanced life to fulfill your God-given purpose. Shame can drive us to become obsessed, and obsession always leads to being out of balance. This is not God’s plan.

To move toward a biblical standard for our bodies, we have to move away from “It’s-all-about-me” to “It’s-all-about-God.” When we embrace our value in Christ and make the most important things the most important, we will care for our bodies (which are the temples of the Holy Spirit allowing us to do God’s work) without being obsessed about them.

Questions for Reflection: Do you feel that culture has influenced you to focus more on your physical appearance than is spiritually or emotionally healthy? If so, what is one way that you can bring balance to your life?

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