Freedom From Performing – Week 2

with 4 Comments

Chapter Two

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.”

Lewis Smedes


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 Glimpse

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

  1. Read chapter 2 and complete the “Daily Dose of Grace” section.
  2. 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.

  1. Can you relate to the quote by Lewis Smedes? Why, or why not?
  2. What shameful messages did you receive in childhood? How have those messages affected your ability to internalize God’s grace?
  3. 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?
  4. What was your favorite part of this chapter and how did God use that in your life?

4 Responses

  1. Wow Becky! I could definitely relate to Smedes quote!

    I really grew up hearing ‘I’m not good enough’! I don’t recall it from my parents in the sense that I was not talented or capable. I always sensed they thought I was both. Though as a preacher’s family, I always sensed the need to have a ‘good testimony’ so that I didn’t disgrace my God or my father.

    I’m not sure why, but I often sensed that being a preacher’s kid- and a christian- that I couldn’t do things that other kids did. Things I thought might be fun! The question that kept flowing in me was “What would God think of you if you do that?”

    I life mapped the ‘not good enough’ line during the last session I did in REWRITING and realized that it came from an event in the 2nd grade- words from a teacher who I still consider one of my heroes.

    I wanted to play a lead role in an elementary school pageant. But they were using 3rd & 4th graders for those. I begged and begged and I know I pestered her to bits. Finally- it was probably the thousandth time I asked her about it she said, “Kathy, you are just not good enough!”

    Did she mean to hurt me? Oh no! Like I said, her life, her teaching has impacted me in powerful ways.

    But I heard “You’re not good enough!”

    Somehow I connected the two things together and came up with a message like,

    “Kathy, as a Christian and preachers kid (that was more important to me than being a christian at the time), you are not good enough to do things that regular people do- because you aren’t strong enough to be a Christian doing them.”

    I know- bizarre! It’s been hard for me to admit that my ‘truth’ became so twisted so young.

    So I spent the rest of my life trying to be a good enough Christian. When I began to realize what I needed was to recognize that my Heavenly Father accepted me, owned me, held me and affirmed me, freedom came! It’s only been recently that I believed deep in me that my God will never let go of me. Never once has he left me! Never once will he!

    I know I’m process all of this right out here in the open, but I’d love to hear what some of the rest of you are seeing in this chapter too!

  2. sorry! I didn’t realize how long that last post got! I’ll try to simplify next time!

  3. Becky
    | Reply

    Great thoughts, Kathy! It’s clear that you have really spent time thinking about childhood messages and how they impact our adult life! I think many women have struggled believing, “I’m not good enough”. Why don’t you explain to others who are doing this study what a life map is!

  4. Oh, I’d love to! Years ago, I was challenged to study my own story- to see what my story was telling me about who I am, where I came from and where I want to go. I was challenged to create a map of my life- it can be done in many ways really. But the criteria was something that helped me look at my story from birth till present. The important thing was that this was my perspective of my story- not my mom’s, sister’s or husband’s. How did I feel about the events that happened in my story?

    For me, the time line worked best. I drew a long line, divided it up by ages.
    I first considered my HERITAGE- what things did I recieve simply because of when, where, & to whom I was born?

    I looked at HIGH POINTs in my life and they went above my timeline- and I decided how high they were in my perspective.
    Then HARD TIMES- went below the line- again, I decided how low they went on my timeline.
    Then I also looked at HEROES and the UN-HEROES in my life- they went above and below the line, respectively.

    The amazing, amazing thing for me- and for others that I have coached to use this tool- is this AHA moment that happens as we begin to see the big picture of our story. There is this incredible awareness that God has been in all of it- good and bad, ugly and beautiful.
    It is an incredible journey!

    Has anyone else done something like this?

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