Last weekend I spoke at our church on the subject of shame, a subject that holds lots of history for me personally. If you’ve read my book and know pieces of the story of my sin-ridden past, you know that I’ve walked the cycle of shame: sin, and guilt, which leads to hiding instead of confession and repentance (if you want to hear more on this cycle of shame, download the notes and/or listen to the message I’ve linked to here).
Since last Sunday I’ve talked and met with several individuals in my church body who no longer feel caught up in the cycle of shame, but still feel the scars left behind from years of living in shame, a place where we allow misplaced identity to harm our souls.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but using Scripture, my own experience, and the healing experiences of others to inform me, here are some important components to pursue when wanting to heal your inner life from the scarring of shame.
This should go without saying, but considering how much media we consume daily that has no eternal benefit to our souls, God’s Word should remain a primary source of encouragement, challenge, and inspiration.
I specifically found a lot of hope in David’s words where he responded to confessing in Psalm 51, and seemed to refer to his own hiding in Psalm 32. As I said recently, praying the Psalms can be a healing experience.
Confession to Trusted Friends
Now almost a decade past the sin which caused shame in my life, I still confess it to those who I trust. I still find it to be painful. I still find it to be healing. It reminds that I’m only one step away from that same life, and pushes me closer to relying on the grace of God, daily.
Even so many years later, exposing the truth keeps light illuminating the darkness that would love to take over again.
Celebrating Small Victories
Temptation doesn’t go away when you have repented. In fact, it may rear its ugly head all the more because of it. Through God’s power we can withstand and overcome the temptation to step back into old habits and decisions, but we must also celebrate the small victories of avoiding the sinful thought and/or deed.
This is not an individual celebration. It is a recognition of God’s grace at work in your life. It is a recognition of the support and love from others around you.
Teaching the Gospel to Yourself Over and Over
This is more a summary of the three previous points. What shame does is twist the gospel of Jesus into something you are no longer qualified for. In the process you see yourself as unworthy and lose perspective on the way God actually sees you.
Often what is needed is a fuller Gospel teaching, where we are forgiven, but also empowered. God’s grace does not stop once we repent of sin, it is what enables the small victories and the continued confession as well.
Surround yourself with people who will teach you the gospel all over again. Surround yourself with God’s Word, to saturate yourself in the gospel all over again. Confess that you need that same gospel.
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