Shame is inevitable, but where does it come from? Why do we experience it? How can we overcome it?
When Adam and Eve first chose to disobey God, they believed the enemy’s words over God’s words. After they doubted God, they gained the “knowledge of good and evil” but felt shame for the first time. They gained knowledge but lost their secure connection with God.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:1-5 NIV
Knowing evil isn’t an advantage. That’s like knowing darkness. That’s like knowing the pains of torture.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.Genesis 3:6-8 NIV
We Knew Shame on Day One
Shame exists because we are born feeling inadequate. Fortunately, God is at work to bring healing to us.
Every day of life is an opportunity to experience a positive reinforcement of your worth. You need to be validated, accepted, wanted, affirmed, and encouraged. This kind of love must come from a source outside of you. Even when others love you, the origin of that love is God.
Unfortunately, because of sin and the curse on this world, every day of life also holds the possibility of negatively reinforcing the feelings of inadequacy. You can make mistakes and even sin. You can fail to accomplish an important task or desired goal. You must find a way to cope with imperfection, defeat, rejection, and isolation.
In a negative environment, the devil’s lies multiply easily. Without faith, developing self-hatred is inevitable.
Shame Drives Us to Regret Being Created
Shame creates an impulse to hide. It’s humiliating to feel less than others. The desire to cover up is way more intense than you’d find in a game of hide-and-seek. The desire to hide is better described as wishing you could totally scrub yourself out of existence.
You can scrub a carrot clean. You can even peel it to remove the outer dirt. But if you believe there is something wrong with it and keep removing parts of it, hoping to find the defect, eventually you’ll have nothing left. The carrot is a carrot through and through. You are who you are supposed to be after God has cleaned you on the outside and inside.
As you can see, I like using analogies. I use them while I am providing counseling to help people understand what is going on with them in a much deeper way. Here is my analogy for shame: ‘Shame’ is to ‘believing God’ as ‘darkness’ is to ‘light.’ Darkness is not a self-sustaining powerful force. It’s better defined as the absence of light. Likewise, shame has no power over you as long as you have the faith to believe what God says about you.
You will only feel bad about yourself to the degree you can’t trust God. To the degree that you trust God, you also gain healthier self-worth. Meditate on this and start your journey to overcome shame today.