The Power Of “SHAME”…

Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 11


Do you or someone you know apologize about everything? “I’m sorry” are the most common words out of their mouth. Or do they say things that make you feel like they are saying, “Please excuse my existence.”

How about someone who always plays the victim? They feel powerless so they blame everything on someone or something else. “It is not my fault because….”

Or the person who feels like they always have to be perfect. 

How about someone who is often jealous of others achievements. They live from a perspective that there is only so much to go around, and if you succeed then that means there is less for them.

Or the person who avoids conflict at all costs. “Where do you want to go to eat? Oh, I don’t care.” “ Then let’s go eat liver and onions. Oh that would be fine.” (that is unless you actually like liver and onions!)

These are all signs of someone who is living from shame. In this podcast I want to try and outline and define what shame is and how it operates in our lives. In the next podcast we will talk about how we can overcome the effects of shame.

Our key verse for today is Isaiah 61:7, which reads:

“ Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.” 

Isaiah 61:7

The thing we all need to understand is that every one of us is affected by shame since shmae was birthed in the Garden of Eden. Chester Kylstra says that shame is the feeling of being uniquely and fatally flawed. This is a great definition because if what I feel is unique, then I don’t dare talk about it with others because they will think something is wrong with me and reject me. People living in shame think they are the only ones who struggle with shame so they feel the need to hide so much of their lives from others. Secrecy is a breeding ground that causes this sense of shame to grow stronger. 

The other part of Chester’s definition is that the feeling of shame is fatal, in other words we can never get rid of this feeling, it is something we will take with us to the grave.

Dr. Brene Brown is a secular researcher who did a study to determine the number one need people have in life. She determined that the number one human need is connection, to know and be known in this life. The next step in her research was to determine what keeps people from their number one need of connecting. She determined that in order to connect people needed to let themselves be vulnerable. And the number one thing that keeps people from being vulnerable is shame.

Dr. Browns research proved that:

Connecting is the deepest desire of the human heart.    

Vulnerability is necessary in order to connect.

Shame keeps people from being vulnerable.

Shame causes people to be afraid of being vulnerable because others might reject them.

This fear leads them to try and control relationships so they keep from experiencing shame.

Dr. Brown discovered what the Bible describes in Genesis 3 about the relationship between shame, fear, and control using a totally secular research study. Shame leads to fear, and fear leads to control. 

Shame entered the world in the garden of Eden. As we know, Adam and Eve were given the entire garden to tend and enjoy the fruit from every tree except for two trees. In the middle of the garden there was the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:1-17 says:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:1-17

We know the rest of the story that they were tempted by the serpent and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and immediately shame entered the world. 

Genesis 3:8-10 goes on to describe the results of their sin:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:8-10

Before they ate the fruit the Bible says that they were naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25). After they ate the fruit they recognized for the first time that something was wrong with them. They discovered that they were physically naked. They had been physically naked from the time God created them and placed them in the garden and yet they had no shame about it. But once shame entered their lives, they discovered they were naked and they were ashamed about it. The shame they experienced didn’t just point out that they were physically naked. The shame pointed out for the first time that there was something wrong with them. 

You and I live in a shame based world. Shame is an invention of Satan. God never intended for us to have to struggle with shame. We do not know what life is like without shame pressing it’s messages upon us. Shame is much different than guilt. Guilt says that what you did was bad or wrong. Shame says that you are bad or wrong for what you have done. Shame puts a label or an identity on you. Shame identifies you by your past behaviors. As Chester Kylstra points out, shame tells you that you are uniquely and fatally flawed!

The shame we experience comes with many different messages. These shame narratives don’t come to you as statements spoken from the outside, like ”You are bad.” Shame speaks in the first person singular by saying “I am bad”. 

Some of those shame narratives are things like:

I am bad

I am a burden

I am defective

I am a failure

I am a loser

I am stupid

I am unlovable

I am weak

I am worthless 

To name just a few. Dr. Brown determined in her study that shame has basically two main messages.

1.     You are never good enough.

2.     Who do you think you are? Why do you think you can do anything great.

Let’s talk about each of those messages because they affect each one of us in differing ways. The first message tells us that we are never good enough. We live in a shame based world where your identity is determined by your performance. If you are successful in your performance, it is still not a lasting success that can carry you in the future. Your performance has to be maintained in order for you to maintain your identity. 

It is not unusual to see athletes or actors who are past their prime and can no longer perform as they once had struggle in life. Their performance gave them an identity that was recognized and applauded. Now that they can no longer perform as they once could, they lose their status and recognition and many don’t know who they are any longer.

We can always find people who perform better than we do when we judge ourselves by our behavior. We are led to believe that if we try harder and work harder and perform better then that will make this sense of shame go away. The opposite is true. It is not our performance that is the problem, it is the fact that we are living from the wrong standard for identity. God says that identity is not found in our performance, but by our birth as a child of God. Our identity is as a son or daughter of Father God. Our behavior then, does not change our identity. In fact when we live from our true identity, then our behavior is governed by  that identity.  

The second shame narrative Dr. Brown says that plagues the human race is this message of “who do you think you are. Why do you think you can do something great?” When this message is at work it causes people to remain small and not take risks. Who are the people who do great things in the Kingdom of God? It is those who are willing to risk failing. When you reach out to pray for the sick, you risk that they might not be healed. But you also have the opportunity to see God do a miracle through your prayer. This shame narrative would tell you not to even risk praying because your prayers might appear to have failed if the person does not get healed. Shame keeps you afraid to fail which makes you afraid to try new things. 

There is a great quote from Theodore Roosavelt from his speech known as The Man in the Arena. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again. When he is in the arena, at best he wins, at worst he loses, but when he fails to win, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”  

The biggest critic that we need to overcome is ourselves. We replay all the negative messages we have heard from others, plus the negative messages we have spoken to ourselves. Unfortunately most of our self-talk tends to be negative. In times of stress or crisis we seldom tell ourselves what God says about us. Normally we tell ourselves the messages floating around in our head that come directly from shame. I am not smart enough. I am not strong. I am not capable.  

The enemy is very able to cater shame specifically for you. The shame narratives you receive are different from other peoples shame narratives. Since we hide our shame and don’t talk about it, we believe that our shame is so horrible that we don’t dare share it with anyone else. Yet if we are honest with ourselves and others, our shame may say different things to us because of the design of the enemy, but it speaks similar messages to all of us. It tries to say, there is something wrong with you. You are uniquely and fatally flawed therefore you don’t dare try to do anything great in this life.

In the next podcast we will talk about the roles and messages shame plays in our life and then talk about how to break free from shame.

RTF Featured on The Shawn Bolz Show

On the second half of this week’s episode (May 20th 2024) of “The Shawn Bolz Show”  RTF directors, Lee and Cindi Whitman, were the guests. Watch for powerful insight and two special listener offers on products to help bring hope, healing, and freedom.