The most secretive prison in the world isn’t in some subbasement of some 1960s era non-descript government building in some closed dictatorial regime. But it is the most populated prison in the world. “Wait a minute, that doesn’t even make sense!” you say. “How do you keep the largest prison in the world secretive?” Put it in the human heart. Outwardly we justify our sin while we inwardly hate ourselves for practicing it. So often we live in the secret prison of shame. The good news is we can have total victory over shame.
Every human being is affected by shame to some degree. It robs us of who we really are. It sets our life on a trajectory of desperately trying in vain to numb its pain.
- We medicate it, because the pain of the addiction hurts less.
- We feed it, foolishly believing the shame from the last failed relationship will be healed by the next one.
- We pretend it doesn’t exist. If I act like I’m fine long enough, maybe I’ll actually believe it myself.
None of it works. All our coping methods just add more shame.
But there’s good news. There is something that will work. Or rather, someone that will work. But to understand the victory, we first need to understand the problem. What really is shame, anyway?
Shame is not guilt. There’s a subtle but important difference between guilt and shame.
Guilt, or conviction, is what the Holy Spirit gives us, because he loves us. It’s a gift from God. He’s correcting our sinful behavior because (1) it’s self-destructive, and (2) it interferes with our relationship with him. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” And often that’s true.
Shame, on the other hand, is not from God, but rather is Satan’s perversion of godly guilt. Shame says, “I am something wrong.” That is so totally not true. That’s a lie. Shame is a liar.
Shame is the false belief that I am uniquely and fatally flawed. (Kudos to Restoring the Foundations Ministry for this definition). There are three fundamental lies of shame.
- “I am flawed.” There’s something wrong with me. I can’t let anyone see. I live in the fear that someone somewhere will find out my secret. I’d better keep them at a distance.
- “I am uniquely flawed.” No one is as bad as me. I am the only one with this problem. If they really knew how bad I am, they would hate me like I hate me.
- “I am fatally flawed.” I can’t be fixed. My flaws are permanent; it’s just the way I am. The best I can do is hide it and control the situation (and everyone else) so no one ever finds out.
Shame holds so many people, even Christians, in prison, keeping them from living out their true identity, or often even knowing what it is. Yes, Christians are forgiven, but so often we’re not healed. This is why we struggle with divorce and addictions and legalism just like the world does.
But there’s good news. We can have victory over shame. His name is Jesus, and he’s made a way.
Shame’s power over us is really just a house of cards because it’s built on lies. The truth of God’s word blows it away.
Each of shame’s three lies described above get smashed to pieces by the Word of God. We have victory over shame when we choose to replace its lies with God’s truth:
- I’m not something wrong.
- I was made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27).
- I have been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- God loves me apart from what I do (Ephesians 1:3-14).
- I’m not uniquely flawed; I’m not the only one like this.
- No temptation has seized me but that which is common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- I am not fatally flawed. My sin is not bigger or more powerful than Jesus’ blood.
- Jesus’ blood is bigger and stronger than any and all of my sin, and by his stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 3:18).
That’s why Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
The question is, Who are you going to believe? God or your shame? When shame brings up your past, agree with it and add, “Yes, that’s why I have a Savior!” When we speak (out loud) God’s truth over ourselves instead of the lies of shame, shame disappears in a puff of grace. Jesus is so there.
Victory over shame opens up a whole new adventure to us—the life God created us to live and Jesus died to restore. I can’t wait to see what God does in your life. And in mine. Shall we take the plunge?
Have you been down this road? Does this resonate with you? Tell us in the comments, and please share on social media if you think this would bless someone else.