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In the day to day, it’s easy to put the sovereignty of God out of mind. We focus on our to-do lists, schedules, and families. If we’re honest, we sometimes wonder if we missed something important along the way.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to concentrate too much on the aspects of life where I struggle. Whether I succeed or not in what I’m doing determines my worth as a person, at least in my own mind.
Then I start asking questions like, “What am I even doing here? Did I misunderstand God’s calling for my life?”
Yesterday I flew from one rainy/underwater side of the country to the other side, which happens to be on fire. I woke up early to leave for the airport, only to be greeted by the news that an earthquake had rocked Mexico while I slept.
As Irma blows her way through the Caribbean, killing dozens and leaving desolation in her wake, Houston begins to rebuild and recover from Harvey’s destruction. Meanwhile, Floridians follow their familiar hurricane protocols—filling sand bags, boarding up windows, and stocking up supplies.
As I continue my series on shame, I have the honor of hosting Denise Pass, author, speaker, and worship leader. Here she explores the purpose of shame. Is it ever a good thing? Here’s what she has to say:
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” 1 Corinthians 15:33-34
Tucked in a chapter about the resurrection life we have in Christ are these verses in which Paul is shaming the people of God. None of us like to hear “shame on you” and we typically think people who shame others are judgmental and legalistic. But sometimes the shame fits. What then?
Last week, I blogged about how to keep others from shaming us, but there’s no magic cure for the shame we keep locked in our hearts for years.
If you’re like me, you’ve asked, “How do we give our shame to God?”
Here are 3 Promises we can cling to while we talk to Him about it and allow Him to take the shame away:
I was spending a quiet Sunday evening in my sewing room when the message alert came.
As I read it, I became nauseated. A distant relative, one I haven’t seen in almost a decade, was clearly angry about something I’d posted earlier in the day (this article for Daughters of Unloving Mothers).
My relative’s intent wasn’t restoration, but to shame me. She questioned my loyalty and love for my mother. She scoffed at my Christianity. She derided my deceased father for his alcoholism. It was pure contempt.
I was shocked by her hostility, as we’d never had anything but positive encounters before, and only a handful of times.
Since she wasn’t asking me to do anything, I could have chosen to ignore the message. I could have blocked her from contacting me. Or, I could have written an apology to try to mollify her anger.
But I hadn’t done anything wrong. The shame she was trying to put on me was definitely misplaced. So instead, I chose to set a boundary.
If you deal with others putting unmerited shame on you as well, there are ways to keep it from sinking in and doing further damage to your already wounded heart. Setting a boundary is like shame repellant.
Here are three things to remember when setting a boundary:
Remind yourself of the truth
I informed my relative of a hard truth I’d realized a few years before. The public perception of relationships isn’t always the way they actually are. In my case, I’d learned to pretend things were good in order to avoid more trouble. But that path had taken me to a dark place.
Whether the other person is able to accept the truth or not, writing it out or talking it over with someone you trust reinforces it in your mind and heart. Every situation is different, and it may not be productive to share that truth with the one who needs a boundary. Sometimes they see their mistake, and sometimes it only escalates the problem, so you’ll have to decide what’s best in each case.
Be Kind, But Firm
It’s hard to insist that you’re treated respectfully, especially if you’ve been treated disrespectfully all your life and you’re just learning how to live without the shame and feelings of worthlessness. It may take more than one draft for you to write out your needs before you share them.
In my case, I asked for respectful correspondence and that my motives not be judged before she knew all the facts. I made sure to focus on her choices, not who she is as a person. We must resist the temptation to fling shame back. Boundary setting is like spraying bug spray on ourselves; I’m not advocating an assault on the other person with a big can of bug killer.
Make Sure You’re Ready to Enforce It
If you make a firm but kind request, the other person has a choice about whether to honor it or not. If they don’t, and you keep allowing the disrespect (or whatever negative behavior meant to shame you), it will be all the harder for you to convince them you mean it the next time.
Having a plan about how to enforce the boundary (whether it be lessening or cutting contact altogether) helps you to stay clear of the shame. Remember that boundaries actually help preserve the relationship, or what’s left of it. You’re doing the other person a kindness by offering an opportunity for them to see that their behavior is hurtful.
I know from personal experience that if the other person choses not to honor your request, it can be painful to accept their choice. But we can only control our own choices, and the least painful choice in the long run is to do what you said you’d do.
Living a Shame-Free Life
Creating boundaries is a good way to begin building up a support system of people who treat you with respect and kindness.
I’ve heard it said that you can’t heal a wound if someone keeps ripping off the scab. I have found it to be true in my own life. Getting yourself to a safe place where you can heal sometimes takes acts of courage you never thought you’d muster.
Without the negative voices pulling you down, you’ll be able to hear the healing voices who want to lift you up.
It’s hard emotional work sometimes. But in the end, the person you become without the weight of shame is free to fulfill the purpose God created you for.
The process of forgiveness begins.
Healthy relationships thrive.
You learn to love freely, because you embrace the love the Creator of the Universe has given you.
If you’re struggling with throwing off the shame and learning to set boundaries in the process, please know that there’s a peaceful life waiting for you on the other side.
Want to read more on the topic? Michele Cushatt wrote a great blog about her experience as well.
I thought I was the only one. Or at least, a rarity.
Uninvited. On the outside looking in.
And that means that maybe you, too, need some guidance to deal with rejection. Read more
I wrote a couple weeks ago about my unintentional garden. It’s a 4′ X 4′ tangle of weeds, tomato plants, and one prolific bell pepper plant.
Seriously, the bell pepper plant has four stalks with a dozen blooms each. The first stalk already has a dozen baby peppers forming. If it keeps it up, I won’t have to buy frozen bell peppers for a year.
And that’s not even mentioning the bountiful tomato plants!
That sinking feeling again. Like maybe I haven’t quite lived up to someone’s expectations or disappointed them somehow.
It’s an anxiety that creeps up on me sometimes when I least expect it, accompanied by a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that somehow I’m not good enough.
You ever feel that way, friend?
But if you want a book that will change your thinking about the way you relate to God, then keep reading.
I let the garden go fallow this year so I could focus on writing goals. Tall weeds grew where I’d toiled over tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers last year. I’d get out there eventually to pull them, I told myself.
Sure enough, there were twice as many plants as I’d planted last year. Plus, a volunteer bell pepper plant.