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What is shame?

Shame is the feeling that arises from the belief that there is is something deeply wrong with you and as a result you are unworthy of intimacy and connection with others. Shame is the voice that tells you that you are not enough and insists that if you could just be more fill in the blank, then you would be okay. Shame is both painful and universal. Though shame is a universal human experience, most people keep their shame hidden because that is our natural instinct. Unfortunately, shame thrives in secrecy and darkness. Shame often leads to hopelessness, isolation, anxiety, and depression, among other things. It impacts individuals, families, relationships, and communities in profound ways. Shame underlies many relational, emotional, and mental health issues.

What is the Gospel?

Let’s start at the beginning of the Bible by explaining that God created all humans in his image, perfect, pure, and flawless.  Humans were created to have unbroken relationships with God and with one another. Unfortunately the first humans, Adam and Eve, broke that relationship by choosing to disobey God’s direction, and as a result sin entered the picture. Sin is evident in our world through brokenness, pain, death, shame, anger, murder, abuse, and pride, among many other examples. The ultimate end of sin is death. There is indeed something wrong with us and with our world, and no amount of good that we do can fix our brokenness. We are unable to save and fix ourselves. The gospel is the good news that God loved us humans so much that he demonstrated it by sending Jesus Christ to live as a man. Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect and sinless life, and died on behalf of mankind to pay the penalty (death) for their sins. Each person must make a choice whether they are going to keep trying to be good enough on their own terms, or whether they will put their faith in Christ for forgiveness and healing.

Viewing shame through a Gospel-lens

The Gospel has the power to transform every aspect of life and shame is no exception. In fact the Gospel offers true freedom from shame and offers hope for the ways in which you want to grow. The Gospel acknowledges the truth that there is something wrong and offers an effective solution. We are broken. Things are not how they should be. We make mistakes. We hurt others. We are limited. We don’t have to deny those things. But we also have good news: we can put our trust in Jesus, who paid the price for our wrongdoing, and receive forgiveness, hope, and healing. Additionally, when you put your faith in Christ you become new, complete or whole, free, and unconditionally accepted. You are not defined by your mistakes or flaws. You are defined by who you are in Christ. Your relationship with God is restored. You do not have to fear judgment or letting God or others see who you really are. You are given the ability to have restored relationships with others. You can move towards others with openness and genuineness.

Because of the gospel we don’t have to live in shame or stay stuck. We can own and confess our sin and brokenness. We also don’t have to live with misplaced shame. If there is no sin to confess, then find out where that message of shame is coming from. There is freedom. We can cling to the truth and repeat it to each other and ourselves over and over. If you have questions about this or want to talk more about the role of faith in your journey, I’d love to hear from you!

Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt

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