Find Freedom From Shame
“Guilt was not my problem as I felt it.
What I felt most was a glob
Of unworthiness that I could not tie down to any concrete sins
I was guilty of. What I needed more than pardon was a sense that
God accepted me, owned me, held me,
And affirmed me,
And would never let go of me.”
I can relate to the quote by Lewis Smedes. For a long time I felt smothered by a nebulous feeling of guilt, but I couldn’t tie it to one particular sin. In the opening of the second chapter I tell the story of the first time I heard the song “Amazing Grace.” At the time I was only five years old. “I remember thinking, that’s me. I’m a wretch. I am dirty and very bad. I must try harder to be good in order for God to like me.” I also remember worrying every day, am I a “good girl?” Most five-year-olds don’t have a profound sense of their own wretchedness. I believe for me that feeling was tied to the sexual abuse I was experiencing. “My shame about the abuse left me with feelings of guilt, inferiority, self-loathing, and worthlessness.”
Shame troubles many women, not just those who have been abused. I believe many of our performance issues are rooted in shame. “Shame drives us to perform but can also prevent us from internalizing God’s grace, the very thing that can heal our shame.” This week we’re going to take a look at shame. We’ll define the difference between healthy shame and unhealthy shame and how God’s grace heals them both.
The Parable of the Wedding Garment
In Matthew 22:1 – 14, Jesus tells a story of a wedding hosted by a King and a guest who shows up to the wedding in the wrong clothes. In case you haven’t already, read the story. Before you read the story though, it is important to understand that “in Jesus’ day, it was customary for royalty to send out robes to everyone who would be attending the wedding celebration so that each person would have suitable clothing.” That little piece of information is critical to our understanding of the point Jesus was trying to make. In His grace, God offers to clothe us in His righteous robe – how can we refuse to accept it and put it on?
You see, healthy shame convicts us of sin and prompts us to repent. Healthy shame helps us recognize that we need God’s grace. Once we accept His offer of grace He clothes us in His righteousness and we become His children. From that moment on we never have to fear being good enough for God (Romans 8:1).
Unhealthy shame is the pervasive feeling of not measuring up and prompts hiding. When we live in a constant state of unhealthy or toxic shame – we hide from God rather than running to Him!
Grace sets me apart as holy, without spot or blemish.
By His grace, God offers to make us completely clean and whole,
Regardless of our past or how well we perform.
If you’ve received God’s grace, the key to finding freedom from unhealthy shame is to hold the shameful messages you received in childhood up to the truth found in God’s word. (Check out pages 32-36 in the book and discover how to do this!)
For Next Week
- Read chapter 2 and complete the “Daily Dose of Grace” section.
- Write the “Grace Glimpse” from this chapter on an index card and tape the card to your mirror. As you look at it throughout the week, let it remind you of God’s grace.
Group Discussion – Answer one or more of the following questions and leave a comment.
- Can you relate to the quote by Lewis Smedes? Why, or why not?
- What shameful messages did you receive in childhood? How have those messages affected your ability to internalize God’s grace?
- Read Isaiah 61:1-3. In the book on pages 36-38, I list three gifts that we see in these verses. Which gift speaks to you the most and why?
- What was your favorite part of this chapter and how did God use that in your life?