In November 2012, A Wellrounded Woman Ministries was presented with an amazing opportunity to promote the ministry at a women’s conference in a neighboring state. As soon as I opened the email, I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to pack up our materials, hit the road, and tell lots of women that we’d never met before about our resource. Anyone who would have seen me so excited would have thought I’d won a million dollars. I was psyched!
Over the next few days this excitement continued to grow as we planned the trip and God miraculously had someone donate all of the funds to cover the cost. (You thought I was doing a happy dance before---you should have seen me when that check came!) I was counting the days until the event!
Then another email arrived that put a damper on the party.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a nice email.
It was from a college friend, who saw my name on the list when she was helping to prepare the convention. Even though the email said, “Looking forward to seeing you,” my heart sank when it arrived.
Immediately, my mind started imagining the conversation. We’d say, “Hi”, hug, tell each other that we don’t look like we’ve aged at all (which isn’t really true—at least, I look older), and then she’d ask the question, “So are you married…have any kids?”
And then I’d shrink. Even if she didn’t say a negative word or give me one pitiful look, I’d feel ashamed---like I’d done something wrong.
I didn’t fit into the mold or meet the expectations of other people.
I was embarrassed to be single---as if it was a failure---a statement that I wasn’t good enough. For me it was a tremendous source of embarrassment and shame. In this instance, it almost kept me from going to the conference and walking through the door that God had opened for our ministry.
The funny thing is that the problem that was causing me so much stress really had nothing to do with my relationship status. (Even if God would have provided a Hallmark movie style miracle and caused me to meet and marry the man of my dreams before the conference, this would not have solved my problem.) You see my problem wasn’t a demographic issue; it was an issue of shame that needed to be overcome and conquered in Jesus name.
What is Shame?
The Free Dictionary defines it as a painful emotion caused by a sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.
It can be a mix of regret, self-hate and dishonor.
Dr. Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault defines shame as, “An emotion in which the self is perceived as defective, unacceptable, or fundamentally damaged. Shame is often confused with guilt, which is related but distinct emotion in which a specific behavior is viewed as unacceptable or wrong, rather than the entire self. People who experience traumatic events are proned to shame, particularly if they blame themselves for the event. Shame can be a particularly problematic emotion because it is associated with a desire to hide, disappear, or even die.” (about.com)
Looking at these definitions, it’s easy to see that shame can be devastating problem. Sadly, it’s a problem that is far too rampant among women today---even women within the church. It’s a tool that the enemy of our souls uses to devour strong Christian women who God wants to use to create a revolution in the world around them.
It’s time it’s reign of terror ends!
You see, shame isn’t just a problem for single women. True, it was the area of MY life where I felt I’d failed to meet expectations, but other women struggle with the issue of shame in different areas.
Some women feel shame because of their weight or their appearance.
Others experience shame because of their lack of education or job experience.
Many women experience shame because of their past or their family background.
The problem with Shame is that it doesn’t focus on any one demographic, but rather, it tries to attack every woman at every economic, social, and age level pointing out either her insufficiencies, insecurities, or the mistakes she’s made in the past. Its goal is to cause you to be so overcome by the things you aren’t or the things you’ve done that you become a prisoner.
Shame wants to control you.
It wants to make you hide away and never become the strong, godly, competent, woman that God created you to be.
That’s really why the enemy of our souls uses this weapon on so many Christian women. He’s afraid of what they could become if they allowed Jesus to control their life rather than shame. He’s afraid of the life they’d live, the people they’d influence, and the difference they could make among their family, their friends, their community, and ultimately for the kingdom of God.
The best way he knows to stop us is to attack us with shame. If he can make us feel unworthy, unloved, unwanted, and unnecessary there’s always the chance that we’ll agree with him and say, “You know what, that’s right, I can’t do what God wants me to do. I can’t live the way God wants me to live and be the woman God’s called me to be. Why am I even trying?”
It’s one of the enemy’s top strategies against women. However, thanks to Jesus, we can recognize this strategy and overcome it, throwing off the chains of shame once and for all and walking in the freedom of Jesus Christ.
How do we overcome shame? We need to develop some defensive war plans of our own. Let’s look at some strategies together.
The first step in winning any battle is recognizing that you are at war.
When you are constantly being barraged with bombshells from an enemy you are under attack. When you decide to fight back---you are at war.
For too long, Christian women have allowed the enemy to constantly attack them with the lies of shame telling them they aren’t good enough, they can never accomplish anything, they aren’t worthy of God’s love, and they have no potential. Because they are unwilling to fight the battle spiritually, lives are being destroyed and devastated by the enemy’s terrorism.
However, this does not have to continue.
As God’s daughter’s we can recognize that we are in a spiritual battle and choose to use the spiritual weapons that God has given us to fight against the lies of the enemy. The first step toward this end is standing up and saying, “I recognize that this is a spiritual attack. The enemy wants to destroy me, but I’m not going to let him. Instead I’m going to use the Sword of the Word of God to fight these lies and gain the victory.”
Shame tells you all of the things that you are not. You’re not pretty, educated, skinny, married, successful, and on and on and on. However, the truth of the Bible wants to tell you who you are: First and foremost, you are God’s chosen daughter, holy and beloved.
I John 1:31 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Ephesians 1:3-5 & 11 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,"
Because God chose us and adopted us, we are literally now daughters of the King of the Universe. Even before you knew Him, God chose you. He reached out to you. He made a way through His Son Jesus Christ for you to be adopted and because His daughter.
Notice this: God didn’t choose you because of the things that you could or couldn’t do. He was never interested in the lists of what you are or what you’re not. He didn’t choose you because of your abilities, your appearance, your education, your financial status, or your relationship status.
1 Corinthians 1: 26-28 says “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,”
So what is the antidote to the lies of the enemy when Shames wants to list all the things that you are lacking? Well, it’s to agree with a twist.
The twist is that God doesn’t care.
Even before you knew Him, God chose you, and made a way through His Son Jesus Christ for you to be adopted and because His daughter. And even knowing all of your faults and flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses, He still chose you and said, “I know what she’s not. But if she will surrender herself to me and let her mold me into the image of my Son, Jesus Christ. If she will obey Me and follow the path I’ve laid out for her life---I am going to do amazing things with her life. Things that NOBODY could imagine. I’m not only going to revolutionize her life but I’m going to use to her start a revolution in My kingdom.”
In ourselves we really are nothing, but Jesus specializes in taking nothing and using it to bring glory to Himself.
That’s why one of the best ways to fight an attack of Shame is to come back with: “I may not be all of the things you are listing, but God doesn’t care. He still chose me to be His daughter, and He still has a plan to fulfill in my life.”
Whenever an enemy declares war, they always start by finding areas that are the most vulnerable to attack---the weaknesses. One thing I’ve learned in my own life is that in my battle with Shame, Satan always attacks in my weakest areas—where I’m most vulnerable. That’s why one of the keys to winning the battle against Shame in our lives is getting to the root of the problem, dealing with it and shoring up the weak areas.
For instance, in my own effort to overcome Shame in my life, I’ve had to face some issues in my past that created vulnerable areas in my soul and mind. On my journey, I’ve had to face the pain of rejection and abuse from my Dad, and how his issues with women had a negative effect on my life. What I discovered is that one of the reasons that being single was such a vulnerable area for me is because my Dad tied my type-A personality (which he didn’t like) to whether or not any man would ever want me. I have clear memories of him telling me, “If you don’t change, no man is ever going to want you.”
Even though it was God’s plan for my life to be single at this time, Shame used my Dad’s words and the emotional pain that his words caused to create feelings of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace. The only way I could overcome my issues with Shame was to face my past, forgive my Dad, and realize that his words were skewed by his own issues from his past. Then, I had to accepting the truth that God is in control of my life, that He created me just the way I am and that He has a unique plan and purpose for my life.
Now I know that as long as I am living in God’s plan and purpose, being single is no longer a source of Shame. In fact, after two years of God healing the pain of my past and helping me find my identity and purpose in Him, I was actually able to return to that same conference advertising our new ministry for Christian single women.
What a dramatic change---from hiding in Shame to using what I’ve learned to help other women! Still, I know that this never would have been possible if I hadn’t faced the source of my shame and applied Biblical principles to the root of my problem.
That’s why I encourage you---if you’re struggling with shame, allow the Holy Spirit to heal the root of the problem in your life. If you need to go to a counselor to deal with your issues than do it. Don’t allow Shame to control you. Instead, take control of it by going to the root and tearing it out saying, “You’re not going to control my life any longer. I will be free!”
Another big weapon that the enemy uses to attack God’s daughter’s with Shame is by reminding them of the sins of their past. Instead of reminding you of what you are not, he reminds you of what you were with lies like:
“There’s no way you can serve God with your history.”
“How do you ever expect to be used by God after what you’ve done or after what you’ve lived through?”
“You’re never going to overcome this area of your life. It’s going to haunt you and plague you for the rest of your life---you’ll never be free. You might as well just give up now.”
Again, the goal is to get you to stop moving ahead with God’s plan for your life---to keep moving forward in obedience and instead wallow in the chains of your past.
Once again---the key to overcoming is recognizing that this is a lie and choosing to fight Shame with the truth of God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Look at this truth from Romans 8:31-35: “What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? God didn’t spare His own Son but handed Him over to death for all of us. So He will also give us everything along with Him. Who will accuse those whom God has chosen? God has approved of them. Who will condemn them? Christ has died, and more importantly, He was brought back to life. Christ has the highest position in heaven. Christ also intercedes for us.”
No matter what happened in your past, you are not living there anymore. If you have repented and God has forgiven you, you’re wholeheartedly following Jesus and allowing Him to shape you into His image, then in God’s eyes, the past is forgotten. When He looks at you now, He sees the blood of Jesus paid at Calvary. That’s what it means to be Justified---in God’s eyes, it is just as if you have never sinned.
Because of this fact, Satan has no right to use the weapon of Shame against you. You are a new creation, living a new life. That may have been who you were…but it is not who you are now. If you want to overcome Shame, you need to accept Christ’s forgiveness, forgive yourself for the past, and claim your new identity as God’s daughter, living your life for His glory.
John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well. When we first meet her, she is absolutely covered with shame. Her shame had driven her into isolation---so much so that we meet her on her way to the well during the hottest, hardest time of day. It was the worst time of day to fetch water, but the only way that she could be sure she’d avoid people and hide in shame.
Then she had an encounter with Jesus. This encounter changed her life. He offered her something that she desperately needed---a way to change her life---to be free from her shame and start all over again. Although she initially wanted the living water that He offered, in the end, she accepted the new life that He gave when He told her that He was the Messiah.
That’s when we see the most amazing thing happen. The conversation ends when the disciples return with the food. However, the story is not ending but taking a dramatic turn. Because somewhere during this woman’s encounter with Jesus, she experienced a revolution. Now instead of hiding in shame, she’s actually going back into the town seeking people out.
Rather than avoiding people because of her past she’s telling everyone who will listen, “I just met a man who told me everything I’ve ever done---He’s the Messiah.”
Because of the encounter that she had with Jesus Christ, her life was revolutionized. What was formerly her shame was now her testimony as she fulfilled the plan that God had for her life---becoming the catalyst for a revival in her town.
Over the years fighting my own battle with shame, one thing I’ve learned is that whenever I choose to share the testimony of what Christ has done in my life, whenever I allow Christ to take the weak areas of my life and use them for His glory, Shame has to run and hide.
Why? Because all of Shame’s power is lost when you decide to come out of hiding, tell the truth, admit your area of weakness and say, “Let the parts of my life that Satan wants to fill me with shame and use to devour me and my future, let them become a testimony of Your Faithfulness, of your Mercy, of Your Power to Intervene and Bring Life and Freedom. God, if you can do anything with the ashes of my life, then feel free to make them beautiful.”
As I shared with you before, two years ago, my father’s hurtful words and attempts at distorting and controlling my personality were causing me to be filled with Shame because I was single.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, the story continued as God healed the broken areas of my life and helped me find my true identity and purpose in Him.
In September 2014, the story continued when I returned to the same conference, this time using my own testimony as a single Christian woman to start a ministry designed to encourage, inspire, and challenge single Christian women. What a difference!!!
I hope this article inspires you to believe that Shame can be overcome! Whatever it’s source, whatever role it’s playing in your life, if you apply these steps to your own life, the Holy Spirit will be faithful and will deliver you from Shame if you will cooperate with Him and fight.
Freedom from Shame is possible. I encourage you to start taking steps in that direction today.