Shame is the feeling of being hopelessly different and less than other human beings. It is the feeling that
there is something wrong with me. Shame is not about what I have done, shame is about who I am.
Gary Hayashi in “Healing of Shame and Self-Hatred” says, “shame is just another word for that inner voice
of condemnation that pervades our consciousness from time to time. It is often accompanied by physical
manifestations such as tightness in the chest or an intestinal aching. Shame causes us to hate who we are.”
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says I made a mistake but shame says I am a mistake. Shame
is not the same as humility. Humility is an accurate assessment of weaknesses and struggles. Shame is an
internalized identity that tends to pervade every area of our lives.
While shame can certainly be attached to our poor choices, shame is often triggered by wounds from others. If someone places too high of an expectation on us, abuses us, condemns or humiliates us, or rages against us, we may internalize the feelings that these circumstances bring up and develop a deep sense of shame. People who struggle with shame often grew up with overbearing parents, in a strict religious setting or suffered some form of abuse.
The first reaction to a sense of shame is to hide from it. In the Bible, Adam and Eve sinned against God and immediately felt shame about themselves. They sowed fig leaves to hide themselves from each other and hid behind the trees to hide from God.
In the same way, people today tend to hide in shame. The hiding may involve working all the time, attaching to someone in a co-dependent relationship, controlling all emotions through anger and rage or withdrawing and isolating from all community. When a person hides from their shame, they actually split off from who they really are, they separate from themselves. A person who struggles with shame often feels like two different people. They constantly evaluate themselves, their actions and their motives and are seldom able to enjoy intimate friendships because they are hiding behind a mask that they have created to hide their shame.
Many who struggle with shame are not aware that this is the root of their problem. People who struggle with addictions are often hiding a sense of shame. The struggle a person may be having with self-hatred can also usually be traced back to shame. It is even good to determine if shame may be a factor in a relational struggle.
Overcoming shame requires forgiveness (see the chapter on “Choose Forgiveness” in my book 10 Life Choices). Since the shame usually stems from some past poor choice or wounding, there must be complete release from the event and the feelings that are attached to that event. All denial must be relinquished and there must be a full acknowledgement of the sin or the wound and the pain associated with it. We must accept God’s complete forgiveness for our poor choices (I John 1:9) and we must extend an unconditional release of the perpetrator of our wounding in order to break free from the feelings of shame.
Forgiveness must be followed with retraining the mind to reject the ‘split-off’ identity and believe in who we really are. You are not weak, inadequate, stupid, worthless, a pervert, etc., You are a precious human being, given the gift of life by God Himself, chosen, accepted, beloved, forgiven, righteous! As we affirm these truths, we also affirm the forgiveness we have claimed by faith. We are free from our past and free to embrace our true identity!
Sometimes it is helpful to meet with a trusted friend, counselor, therapist or life coach to help you through this process. As you begin to believe that there is nothing wrong with you, you will begin to live out of that new identity and embrace life!