Disconnecting Shame

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Disconnecting Shame

Disconnecting Shame

Sadly, only about 50% of married couples will reach their 15th wedding anniversary.  Only 33% will reach their 25th anniversary.  The primary reason:  Divorce.

Among the top reasons for divorce are poor communication, arguing, infidelity, and stagnation:  Disconnection – Shame.

Unfortunately, these statistics are the same for Christians as for unbelievers.

Divorce is a reality in our culture because shame is a reality of our culture. Shame is at the root of many of the relational issues that prevent us from having positive, loving, and healthy connection.

In a previous blog, Silencing Shame, we defined shame as a sense of unworthiness; it is the feeling that says:

“I am bad” 

“I am unwanted”

“I am undesirable”

“I am less than”

“I am devalued”

“I am insignificant”

“I am unlovable”

“I am a mistake”

“I am worthless”

These messages of shame that shout out to us from the corners of our mind and the bottom of our hearts, wage war against the very reason we were created – Connection.  

Created for Connection

We were designed to have fulfilling relationships.  God created us to have relationship with Him and each other in marriage, family, friendship, Church community, the workplace, and the larger community in which we live.

Connection is the key to a whole and happy life.

1 + 1 = Wholeness

The statement, “No man is an island” is true.  When God made Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).”We need each other to be whole.  Having healthy connections is crucial to having a fulfilled life.

1 + 1 + Wholeness = Happy

Connected people are happy people.  I have never met a newly engaged couple that looked miserable; no, they are normally walking hand in hand, smiling, laughing, and enjoying life. 

Happy couples don’t normally seek out counseling, only unhappy ones, who are trying to find or regain connection.

Shame Disconnects Connection

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to have healthy connections when we feel disconnected through shame.

Disconnection is feeling:

  1. Diminished
  2. Rejected
  3. Reduced
  4. Unworthy

When we feel disconnected, shame seduces us into secrecy, insists on silence, and results in judgment.  

When we begin hiding, afraid to be vulnerable, we begin blaming ourselves, and others, for the disconnection that we feel, using blame to deal with our feelings of unworthiness and powerlessness. 

Instead of pulling people towards us, we push them away, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that we are not worthy of love and acceptance.  Disconnection is the result.

Shame is the Fear of Disconnection

Why are we so afraid of what someone else thinks or says about us?

Why do we try to hide our mistakes, deficiencies, and limitations from others?

We are afraid of punishment.

We are afraid of rejection.

We are afraid that others will not accept us for who we truly are.

We are afraid that if someone sees us as we truly are, we will not be loved.  

Shame is rooted in fear.

The devil (the “divider”) wants to shower us in shame, because shame breeds fear, which breeds disconnection. 

Disconnecting Shame Through Connection

Perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).  When we are free from fear, shame has no more hold of us, and we are free to take risk to pursue fulfilling relationships.

Connection is feeling:

  1. Valued
  2. Accepted
  3. Affirmed
  4. Worthy

Who wouldn’t want to feel that?  

We can only truly love to the degree that shame is silenced, by cultivating value, acceptance, affirmation, and worth within ourselves.  

These core feelings of connection begin with an encounter of God’s love.  

When Jesus was baptized, he heard the Father say, “This is my son in whom I love, with him I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” It was out of that revelation that Jesus was able to say, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30).” Jesus was able to have healthy connection with God and others because he encountered true love.

Disconnecting Shame Through Love

It is only as we begin to experience God’s love that we can truly love and accept ourselves as God made us.  

When a person has a sense that they are inherently bad, worthless, it is very difficult to have healthy relationships because we can only love others to the degree that we love ourselves.

Jesus commanded us to love the Lord, and to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).” Similarly, the apostle Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives as they love themselves (Ephesians 5:28).

Doesn’t it make sense that if God loves us, that we should love us?  

Shame tells us that we are sinners, evil, bad – undeserving of love.  God says that we are the apple of His eye, His bride, His children, heirs, His friend, His elect, saints – the object of His affectionate love.

The more we believe the truth about our love connection with God, the more we will be able to love ourselves and others.  Shame will no longer be able to disconnect us from experiencing healthy, whole, relationships.

Disconnecting Shame Through Empathy

Love is expressed in empathy.

Empathy is the remedy to shame.  

Empathy is the God-given prescription that enables us to be known, and to truly know.

Empathy is:

  1. Seeing the world as other’s see it
  2. Being non-judgmental
  3. Understanding another person’s feelings
  4. The ability to communicate another person’s feelings

Empathy is being able to identify my feelings, and the feelings of others, allowing myself, and others, to have these feelings, and asking reflective questions to confirm what has been communicated.

Feelings are not right or wrong – they just are.  

When we feel heard, we feel connected.  When we listen, we invite connection.

Empathy is ultimately other-focused.  True love, that breeds connection, cares about what others are feeling. The Bible says, “Love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5).” When we are able to understand someone else’s feelings and perspective, then we are able to connect in healthy, whole, ways.

Disconnecting Shame Through Vulnerability

Empathy requires Vulnerability.

Vulnerability is:

  1. Uncertainty
  2. Risk
  3. Emotional Exposure

If we desire healthy, whole, relationships, we must learn how to become vulnerable.

The apostle Paul wrote, “We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8).” He was willing to let his friends see the real him in every facet.

Here are 4 simple steps to increase vulnerability:

  1. Practice Gratitude towards yourself and others.
  2. Honor the Ordinary in yourself and others.
  3. Pursue Joy and Love for yourself and others.
  4. Start taking risk to share your feelings, as well as feeding back other’s feelings.

As you take steps towards expressing empathy and vulnerability, it won’t be long until shame has been disconnected, and disconnection is transformed into healthier, whole, connection.

Let me know how this topic has impacted you, and look for some more upcoming blogs on dealing with the issues of shame.

 

 

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Silencing Shame

Have you ever heard that little voice in your head say…?

“You don’t fit in” 

“Nobody likes you”

“You’re stupid”

“You’re the only one who has made this mistake” 

“How could God love you? I mean He really knows everything about you”

“You’re not lovable”

“You will never fulfill your destiny”

Have you ever felt like…?

“Everyone is against me”

“I’m not as good as others”

“I just can’t do anything right”

“Maybe if I just try harder, then…”

“I’m all alone”

“I hate myself”

“I’m worthless”

If you answered “yes” to any of these statements, shame could be speaking to you.

Shame has been Speaking Since the Garden of Eden.

When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, guilt was an appropriate symptom of their disobedience.  Guilt is built into our conscience to let us know when we have done something that threatens our connection with God.  

Guilt is actually a good thing.  It’s like a warning light on a car’s dashboard that lets you know when something needs attention before the engine blows up.

Guilt is from God

Shame is from Satan

Guilt says, “You did something wrong,” like when the apostle Paul said, “All have sinned (Rom. 3:23).” Guilt says, “I did something bad.”  Guilt is about what we’ve done.

Shame goes further:  It speaks to who we are.

Shame is the sense of feeling unworthy.  It’s a core (even subconscious) belief of unworthiness.

Shame says, “You are wrong.” “You are a sinner.” “You are bad.” “You are not good enough.” 

Shame asks, “Who do you think you are?

Shame Attempts to Speak to our Identity

If the devil can convince us that we do not have a supernatural identity as children of God, then he can derail us from our supernatural destiny.

When Jesus was baptized, he heard the Father say, “This is my son…” Identity.  Interestingly, Jesus did not preach one message, heal one sick person, or prophesy until he first heard of his true identity.  We can only fulfill our supernatural destiny to the degree that we believe our supernatural identity.

Shame tries to talk us out of our identity.

After his baptism, Jesus was led out into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Two times, the devil assaulted Jesus’ identity when he challenged him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” And then, “If you are the Son of God, jump off of the Temple’s roof.”

The devil was attempting to tempt Jesus into performing to prove his identity because he knew that if Jesus took the challenge, it would demonstrate that he did not really know who he was.  Moreover, he would have to spend the rest of his life proving his identity over and over.  Knowing our true identity prevents performance for approval.

Shame is the Source of Perfectionism

Shame always seeks to seduce its prey into perfectionism.  When we listen to shame, we will never feel secure in our identity.  We will always need to do more to prove that “we are O.K.”, while never actually appeasing shame’s appetite for approval.

The pursuit of feeling worthy by being better, more successful, thinner, smarter, wealthier, accomplished, or even in “good” busyness, is a futile attempt at cultivating a godly sense of worthiness.

The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:10 that, “We are saved by grace, not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.” That means you cannot earn worthiness.  We are worthy of God’s love because of His grace – nothing more.  

Additionally, we were God’s treasures before we ever became Christians – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” When God created Adam and Eve, He said that they were “good;” they had intrinsic worth – worthiness – His treasures.

Shame Silencers

1.  Learn how to recognize God’s voice from the devil’s voice.   

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m hearing the truth or a lie?” Try writing down all of the times shame speaks to you during the day.  You may be surprised at how often shame is speaking.

2.  Learn how to be vulnerable.  

Shame loves secrecy.  The truth will set us free.  Being open and honest requires great risk, but also reaps great reward.  Begin with yourself, God, and then reach out to someone who can give you good feedback.  Telling someone that we have been listening to shame releases us from the power of secrecy, and silences shame.  

3.  Learn to recognize your feelings.  

Empathy is the antidote to shame.  When we are able to discern and identify our feelings and the feelings of others, it creates a pathway to finding out what we need from God, others, and ourselves.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”  “What do I need?”

4.  Learn to take every thought captive.  

You are going to be tempted to believe and act in negative, hurtful, and dysfunctional ways to the shame messages spoken to you. Shame is silenced when we take ownership of our mistakes, accept our limitations, deficiencies, and limitations, as well as interpret other people’s motives correctly.  Take responsibility in submitting shaming thoughts and feelings to become obedient to Christ’s perspective (2 Corinthians 10:5).

5.  Learn how to listen through the ears of faith.  

Ask yourself, “What does God want to say to my about my identity right now?” “What does He think about me?” Additionally, begin reading Scripture from the perspective that God is for you, that you are a good man or woman, that you are a saint saved by grace, an overcomer, the apple of His eye.

6.  Learn to be grateful.

The fact is that you are wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  Being grateful for how God has made you in all of your limitations and imperfections will help you to replace shame with acceptance and love.  Every time you hear shame messages left on your mental voice mail, erase them with gratitude.  Thankfulness prepares the way for breakthrough.

Let me know how this message has helped you silence the shame messages that have been sent to you.

And then, look for some more important practical tips on how to silence shame coming soon!

 

To continue with the "Never The Shame Again" series, wait until next week for the next post!

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