I have felt the weight of not living up to everyone else’s standard of me or their expectations of where they think I should be. To overcome the shame I felt, I had to address the root. 

Was I carrying their opinions as my own and above God’s word?

Why did I care what they thought and what kind of relationship did I think it was versus what it really was?

Meaning those I do life with regularly carry more weight than those I talk to every once in a while. 

When we are working to overcome shame, we have often carried opinions that we shouldn’t have picked up. We meditated on them to the point where we feel bad about ourselves. This can lead us to question who we are.

What is Shame?

Some researchers suggest that “shame comes about from repeatedly being told, not that we did something bad, but that we are something bad. Consequently, it can close us off from accepting any form of positive regard from others or ourselves.”

When someone experiences deep shame, it can trigger the sympathetic nervous system which causes a fight/flight/freeze reaction.

As I unpack in this post, overcoming shame will be about addressing the root of the issue not trying harder to not feel shame.

For a more in-depth look at healing from shame, sign up for my Spiritual Growth Framework course, where we focus on the root, not the symptoms.

Signs of Shame

  • Self-sabotage
  • Lack of the fruit of the Holy Spirit
  • Self-criticism
  • Chronic people-pleasing
  • Constantly not feeling good enough 
  • Anger or defensive behavior
  • Constantly feeling like you can’t do anything right
  • Always thinking something is wrong with you

What is Guilt

Therapists describe guilt as something we have when we compare something we’ve done or failed to do. We feel guilt because we compare it to our values which leads us to physiological discomfort. I like to say we live in tension.

We feel the tension between what we know is right, pure, and good and the reality that we did not choose between right, pure and good. This tension causes us to feel uneasy and unsettled. 

Signs of Guilt

  • Feeling bad about something you did
  • Evaluating an action as right or wrong
  • Failure is the result of a poor decision
  • Failure is the result of a personal flaw
  • Promotes problem-solving
  • Leads to apologies and attempts to repair trust
  • Involves taking accountability

How to Stop Feeling Guilty

We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to bury our feelings of shame, all of which have a negative impact on our close relationships.

Anger, withdrawal, blame, contempt, control, perfectionism, and people-pleasing are all momentarily feelings to cope with the pain of feeling inadequate or not good enough. 

Overcoming shame produces the fruit of the Spirit. 

Let’s look at what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit and quench the Holy Spirit. 

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

To grieve the Holy Spirit is to do something that is outside of God’s will for your life. 

If you read Ephesians 4:25-32, you will see bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice lead us to grieve the Holy Spirit. When we live in shame, we grieve the Holy Spirit because we are often living from the feelings we feel instead of the truth about who we are in Christ. 

We take it upon ourselves to carry the weight.

Verse 27 says, “Do not give an opportunity for the devil.” The surrounding verses are discussing anger and acting out of our feelings. 

1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

To quench the Spirit is not to do something God has called us to do.  

The Holy Spirit is a fire dwelling in each believer. He wants to express Himself in our actions and attitudes. When we do not allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions or we do what we know is wrong, we suppress or quench the Spirit.

A comparison would also be living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5.) 

When we allow shame to become toxic in our lives, we get stuck in an emotional loop of unhealthy and unchecked feelings that need to encounter God’s love and truth. 

When we grieve or quench the Holy Spirit, it hinders godly lifestyles. When we stay stuck in our shame and do not overcome shame, it hinders our ability to live according to a Spirit-filled life.

When we are working to overcome same, we have often carried opinions that we shouldn't have picked up. We meditated on them to the point where we feel bad about ourselves. This can lead us to question who we are.

How to Overcome Shame

There are two types of shame. There is a healthy conviction and a toxic shame. 

I like to think of healthy convinction as closing the loop of their pain while leading someone back to their identity in Christ.

Jim Wilder says, “Shame is necessary for character to change. Our brain has dedicated circuits that control and form character. Shame is important for socialization, and without it, our character will not change.”

When I began reading the book The Other Half of Church, I began to have a fresh revelation about shame, how we have abused it, and how we can heal. 

When we are working on overcoming shame it’s important to know that shame in itself doesn’t offer a way out. Toxic shame is often paired with a conscious message such as “I am not good enough.” When we meditate on those messages, we validate them. 

What we affirm we conform to versus taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ.

Healthy conviction doesn’t leave someone alone. It always invites them back to community and for them to stay in community. Most of us have never learned how to experience shame and stay relationally connected.

When we work to overcome shame, we focus on relationships. We don’t want to leave someone alone in their shame. It may look something like this:

“We are not a family who chooses to be led by their feelings. We do not treats other poorly with our words because we are hurt. Instead, we are learning to be a family who prioritizes taking on the character of Christ and showing that to those around us. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to ask for forgiveness and repent. You get to try again.”

Healthy shame affirms the relationship, reminds them they are not alone, but also points out how they are not acting like themselves (who they are in Christ). We correct them but point them back to their identity. This helps us to overcome shame and not keep us there. 

We don’t leave them in their pain by telling them all they did wrong and disappearing. We close the loop by reminding them we are there and then guiding them back to who they are. 

For a more in-depth look at healing from shame, sign up for my Spiritual Growth Framework course, where we focus on the root, not the symptoms.

Overcoming Shame Scriptures

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Confess whatever is making you feel shame, guilt, and regret.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

When the fruit of your thoughts produce the feeling of worthlessness it’s not from God. God is not condemning you. Overcome shame by knowing the truth and believing He is for you. 

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7

God wants to help you. Take advantage of His words, bearing in mind, that He is with you, every step of the way.

jessica hottle

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