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Posted by on Apr 29, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Lie of Shame

As everyone settled into their rooms the other night, not likely asleep but content to read until they were, it was finally my turn to relax.  It had been a long day (when is it not in parenting?) and I was tired.  I read for a bit, turned the lights out, and settled into sleep.  

Tip-toe, tip-toe, tip-toe.  Oh, the familiar sound…

“What do you need, beautiful?”  

“Mom,” she said through a quavering voice, “I feel guilty over the bad things I’ve done.  I’ve prayed and asked God to forgive me, but it doesn’t go away.”  Hearing her pain breaks my heart every time.  

But here’s the thing: I know my daughter.  I know her love for Jesus.  I know that she sees her sin for what it is and is quick to confess (both to God and to me).

So why was she hurting in that moment? It wasn’t guilt that my daughter was feeling.  It was shame.

We frequently use those words interchangeably, although I would argue that doing so is to our detriment.  When we cannot differentiate between the two, we cannot begin to face either well.

Guilt is experiencing the weight of our wrongdoing.  Guilt can be beneficial in bringing our brokenness to light. 

It is what draws followers of Christ to repentance as we realize that God is the only Perfect One. With guilt, we are made aware of our faults and called to turn in repentance.  

Not so with shame. 

Shame comes from the inability to rid ourselves of the guilt that we feel.  It is the internal loathing that comes when we feel so stuck in our guilt, so unworthy of forgiveness, so deeply buried by our sin. 

Shame is a lie Satan tells in hopes that we will question God’s forgiveness, His promises, His character, and His ability to do what He says He will do.

When we are trying to teach our children how to work through shame, or even work to face it in our own lives, we must begin by asking ourselves, “Do I faithfully trust that God is true to His word? Do I firmly believe that His promises are the same today as they were when He spoke them into being? 

Do I trust Him when He promises to forgive our sins and purify us from unrighteousness; we only need to confess to Him (1 John 1:9)? Or when He promises His presence among His followers (Matthew 28:20), freedom to all believers (John 8:36), and peace that cannot come from this world (John 14:27)?”

I’ve seen within my own life and the lives of my loved ones that we can fully believe these promises and still struggle with shame. 

This is because our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he has found that shame is a powerfully effective tool in accomplishing his evil intentions.  He will continue to use shame against God’s people until God banishes him to hell for eternity.

So how do we combat shame while we continue to live in this fallen and broken world?

In our house, we fight by speaking truth over lies.  Not just speaking truth, but speaking truth over the lies.  [This comes from the understanding that our emotions are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9) but the promises of God never change.]

Let me give a few real-life examples:

I feel worthless but I know God made me and God doesn’t make mistakes.

I feel unforgivable but I know that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord WILL be saved.

I feel unlovable, but I know that nothing in all of creation can separate me from the love of God.

And the one we spoke that night, not long ago, to battle the shame my daughter felt: I feel ashamed by my sin but I know God promised to send my sins away from me, as far as the east is from the west. It isn’t with me anymore.

Does it instantly make the hurt, shame, and pain go away? No. But does it take the power away from those feelings and rightfully place it back where it belongs, in God’s hands? Yes.  

That night, it only took 3 times through before my daughter was able to fully embrace her status of “forgiven.”  Sometimes it takes countless more repetitions before we can finally break through the lies. 

But in the end, no matter how long it takes, if it’s time spent focusing on God’s promises, it is time well spent.

 

 

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Shame, Shame, Shame on You

If you’ve been following XXXchurch for the past couple of months you know that a key aspect to our mission is pushing for more open conversations about difficult subjects in culture and in the church. 

Subjects like porn, lust, and masturbation.

Why? 

Because we believe that the only way these things will greatly improve is when we engage in meaningful conversations meant to encourage, inspire and challenge each other. So much can happen when we pursue healthy dialogue… when nothing is off limits and all conversations are welcome. 

Because it is through those conversations that we have the opportunity to process and reflect on the areas of life we find most challenging and confusing. 

So the other day I came across an article written clearly from a faith-based background dealing with the question of whether or not masturbation is wrong. 

Realize that when it comes to masturbation, I have seen so many opinions and teaching on this subject. And to be frank… so much of it is complete crap. Very little of what I have read actually encourages healthy conversation and engagement because it either falls on the side of affirmation or shameful rhetoric and only focuses on the actual behavior and generally ignores the context for the behavior.

Consequently, my curiosity got the better of me, so I had to click and read it.

I’m always ready for a fresh take on a touchy subject (no pun intended) so I dove in but it took only a few minutes before I regretted that decision. 

Here are just a few quotes from that article:

“The ultimate answer to [the question is masturbation wrong] is it’s wrong because our Rabbi and King has said as much.”

“One of the fundamental issues with masturbation is that our only role in the sex act is that of porn director.

“During masturbation we’re taking people who haven’t given themselves to us and we’re compelling them to pleasure us according to our demands. If this happened outside of our minds it would be called rape. Of course, this is only happening in our minds. But why should that rinse off the filth from the action?”

“The gospel gives us a choice of being porn directors and abusers, or of being “a chosen people.”

“Let’s put away our harem and put on hope. Let’s cease to be predator’s so that we can become priests.”

YIKES!

If I was going to summarize the above quotes it would look something like this…

Masturbation is wrong because God says so (which btw, there is no direct verse that speaks to the specific sin of masturbation) and if that’s not good enough, it’s also wrong because you are acting like a predatorial porn director and mental rapist.

Why do I find this type of teaching so problematic? 

First, the shame is thick.

If you are someone struggling with masturbation or have real questions about it, how likely are you to approach someone about the topic when you are being painted as a porn directing rapist?  

Most people (especially Christians) carry around so much shame to begin with. We don’t need to add to that burden with labels and terms that are extremely charged and condemning.  

Second, it doesn’t invite healthy discussion.

Whether you think masturbation is completely fine or completely disgusting, when you lead with “because God says so” you automatically limit your argument to a specific demographic of people. Those who are outside the faith or maybe have real struggles with faith are going to hear that opening line and check out immediately.

Additionally, when you are throwing around terms like rape, predator, and porn director it’s pretty clear that you’re not going to be open to any alternative opinions.

Beyond that, the clear assumption of this article is that masturbation is always being done in the context of porn and sexual fantasy. But…

  • What if it’s for the purposes of donating sperm?
  • What if it’s because your urologist needs a sample?
  • What if it’s with your wife or husband?
  • If I’m married does that change things?

Admittedly, there are many layers to all these objections (some legitimate and some not) but when we talk about a topic from one narrow perspective and condemn it accordingly we miss out on the opportunity to invite conversations around the larger issue.

Masturbation is a difficult conversation for sure. But we need to approach these things with a less condemning iron fisted approach while still pointing out the real problems.

At the end of the day, the primary issues with masturbation is that it is often being done in the context of objectifying someone. In other words, it takes a complete human being (mind, body, and soul) and reduces them down to a physical object for the purposes of sexual gratification.

And when we see that as the core issue, we have a place to start our dialogue that anyone can appreciate.

Realize that my disappointment with that article is not the fundamental underpinnings that leads to their conclusions. It is the fact that they chose a path of communication that increases shame and discourages healthy dialogue.

Because at the end of the day, if we want to invite people to a better way of living… 

  • One that doesn’t involve medicating your issues with porn and sex.
  • One that doesn’t objectify and exploit others.
  • One that invites accountability and champions transparency.

We need to make sure people feel invited in the first place.

 

 

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Posted by on Apr 22, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Breaking Free From Shame

“When we experience shame, we feel disconnected and desperate for worthiness. Full of shame or the fear of shame, we are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors and to attack or shame others. In fact, shame is related to violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and bullying.” Brene Brown

 

Have you ever experienced shame? I’m not talking guilt, where you feel remorse for something you did. I’m talking about where your whole being is inadequate and bad. I know a thing or two about shame and the lies it tells us. 

When I was a freshman in college, I was raped. I’ll spare the details. In the grand scheme of things, the details don’t matter.

What does matter in this instance is the aftermath: the terrible shame I carried every day knowing what happened and how it made me feel. I couldn’t stop seeing and feeling that night over and over.

I lived in a small town at the time, so I saw him around town often. I began falling deeper into the lies of my shame. I went through the motions of going to class, going to work, meeting up with friends.

I was there, but I wasn’t present. I was consumed with shame and depression and it was smothering me. I couldn’t escape this. I couldn’t really tell people what had happened. What would they think?

My cousin knew, of course, because she was there that night. I also told one of my best friends. I began to drink more to escape. For a few hours, I was numb and it didn’t consume me as much.

I could pretend to be normal again.

The shame never left, though. The lies of shame became the voice I heard on replay until they became my identity. I wasn’t worthy. I was broken. I was no good. I was dirty and bad. 

I was in my car one day and noticed a notebook on my floorboard. It wasn’t mine and it didn’t look familiar. I looked inside to see if I could see who it belonged to.

I flipped open to a page that had my name written on it. I read through it and realized it was a journal of some sort. This entry was about me and telling my friend about being raped and how she thought I made it up to get attention. That gut-punch hit deep.

I had to put it down and couldn’t read any further. I didn’t know how to even bring it up or address it. I pretended I hadn’t seen it. The depression got worse and so did the drinking.

The shame was getting heavier.

People really thought I made this up? I couldn’t breathe. I was drowning. I was self-medicating with alcohol. I was not doing well in school. No one saw it, though, as long as I kept pretending and going through the motions.

I knew something was wrong and I needed help. I couldn’t talk to my friends. They apparently didn’t believe me. The whispers of my shame were right. I was dirty and bad and unworthy and unbelievable. 

Who better to talk to than the local pastor? I went to share with him what happened and seek advice. I needed help. I needed a lifeline. The shame and hurt were far too much for me to carry on my own.

I mustered all the courage I had to share what happened. I was met with the next round of shame and disbelief. He asked me if I was feeling all these feelings and self-harming because I was feeling guilty for wanting this to happen.

I was speechless. I wanted nothing more than for it to have never happened. I wanted my virginity back. I wanted myself back. Guilt? I wanted it to happen? The lifeline I had been desperate for was dangled before me and destroyed.

I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My entire being – mind, body, soul – was in crisis. I tried crying for help. People who should have been safe proved to be unsafe.

The shame kept growing and consuming more and more. The lies of this shame kept whispering to me that I was damaged and worthless and no one would ever want me and I wasn’t believable.

Add in that I still had to see his face often. I had to get away or I knew I wouldn’t survive. Literally. The whispers of my shame grew to an all-time level of loudness.

I was unworthy, broken,unlovable, and unbelievable. It would be better if I weren’t here. 

I created my exit plan. No one understood. It didn’t matter. I had to leave. I wasn’t going to make it if I didn’t. I transferred schools the next year.

I moved clear across the country. I figured a change of scenery would help. And it did, for a little while anyway. But I still needed to deal with myself. There was still work to do. 

“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” Brene Brown

It was a while before I actually took the major steps to deal with myself. I needed to feel safe. It wasn’t the place that made me feel safe, though, it was the people. Thankfully, they didn’t have to know why I was there.

I was able to go through the motions and slowly begin to put myself back together again. I knew I’d never be the same, but I sure hoped I’d come out resembling my past self. Parts of that version of myself were forever lost. 

Years later, through prayer, fasting, therapy, more prayer, fasting, and some of the most amazing friends I could have ever dreamed up, I’ve come out on the other side no longer hearing the lies of my shame. I know who I am and Whose I am.

I still have rough days, as everyone does. A simple call or text to those who listen, just saying it’s a really hard day is all it takes. I don’t have to explain if I don’t want to. Empathy and love are given freely. 

Brene Brown wrote, “when we find the courage to share our experiences and the compassion to hear others tell their stories, we force shame out of hiding and end the silence.”

I’ve shared my experiences of shame with you. Your turn.

 

 

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Posted by on Apr 20, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Holy Ground of Your Child’s Confession

I know my child; something was up.

My daughter paced in and out of my bedroom while I worked at my desk.

At first, she needed a signature for school. A few minutes later, she asked about our schedule, and then she came in fidgeting and asked about dinner.

I turned my chair around to offer my undivided attention. In time, she sat down on the bed and said, “There’s something I need to tell you.” My daughter explained how she stumbled across something pornographic on the internet.

Even though she did nothing wrong, she felt ashamed and was afraid I’d be mad at her if she told me.

This is what shame does; it leads us to believe things are better left in the dark. I was proud of my daughter for pushing through shame’s lies to tell me.

While guilt signals to us that we did something bad, shame convinces us we are bad.

Guilt can help us grow and lead us to the cross. This conviction is God’s loving-kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). But shame leads us to isolation, much like Adam and Eve hid from God’s presence after they sinned (Gen. 3:8).

Before sin, the couple was naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25). But the enemy can use shame in our lives whether we’ve sinned or not. Some wives feel shame about their husband’s porn addiction, convinced it’s their fault because they don’t measure up.

Parents can feel shame they didn’t put up enough guardrails for their kids or didn’t “see it coming.” We all know what shame feels like, which is why it’s essential to handle potentially shameful conversations with our children with care.

“There’s something I need to tell you” are seven little words containing a big invitation for parents to tread on holy ground.

Our reaction offers a red, yellow, or green light of safety for the next time our child wants to open up. If our response breeds condemnation, our child receives a red light; we can’t expect them to come to us in the future with actual or perceived wrongdoing.

If our reaction communicates conditional love, we give them a yellow light; they know we can handle some stuff, but not all of it.

When our response reflects God’s character and heart, we create a green light for present and future connection with our child. Moments of confession are moments of heart-holding. 

If we listen, these moments beg of us:

Handle with Care.

Be a Safe Place.

Leave no Room For Shame.

What does a green light connection look like? How do we navigate our own emotions through these conversations and handle their hearts with care? Here are some tips.

  • Thank your Child.

Thank your child for sharing with you. Thank them for trusting you. Honor them for their decision to bring everything into the light. Bringing darkness into the light is a big step; validate that. 

  • Stay Calm.

In my daughter’s instance, she didn’t do anything wrong, and I assured her of that. But maybe your child did do something wrong, and it’s tempting to get wrapped up in the emotion of it. Resist that temptation.

When our fight-or-flight kicks in, we end up saying things we don’t mean. Remember, this is holy ground, and your response will either create open doors for connection or slam them shut. 

  • Ask More Questions.

When our child opens up, they test the waters of our connection. They see how we respond to one pebble before they give us a handful.

Provide a space for them to get everything off their chest. We shouldn’t ask more questions just to get more information from them, but rather to hear their heart, discover the lessons they learned, and help them feel fully understood. 

  • Don’t jump to corrective strategies. 

When our mama bear instincts kick in, we want to jump to action. With the situation I shared about my daughter, I immediately wanted to jump into cyber-security mode.  But I decided to push pause to give the conversation the undivided focus it deserved.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, take time to calm down, pray, and talk to your spouse first before diving into “fix-it” mode. Let the holy ground of vulnerability remain a soft place to land. 

  • Watch Your Words.

We need to ensure our words align with the truth about guilt and shame. We can never resort to name-calling, identity-labeling, or any other passive-aggressive words that might communicate our child is bad.

They may have made a bad choice, but they aren’t bad. They may have made a mistake, but they are not a mistake. We need to take it a step further and validate who they are because shame buries our true selves. Use your words to call out the best in your child. 

  • Pray for and with Your Child.

Take the opportunity to pray for and with your child. You may lead them in a prayer of repentance, or a prayer of protection and blessing, or both. Remind them that Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

  • Draw Closer.

Shame tempts us to withdraw from God and others. The more we hide, the harder it is to be known; but we have to be known to connect. Combating shame means drawing closer to our child during and after moments of confession rather than further away.

We like to say, “time-in rather than time-out.” Show your child affection, schedule one-on-one time of connection, and follow up with times of intentional, active listening and attention. 

In the holy ground moments of our child’s confession, taking these steps will help eradicate shame, build a stronger connection, and keep a green light of safety for future conversations.

Let’s hold our children’s hearts with care, guiding them gently into the Father’s love and grace.

 

 

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Posted by on Apr 15, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Shame and Guilt: Are They Different?

One of the most crippling feelings people experience in life is shame.

Whether that be through a traumatic childhood memory or through some kind of incredibly painful abuse that took place. Or simply the feeling that they were a problem people just had to “deal” with. 

I believe that shame is a feeling that touches everyone at some point in their life. 

The deeper impact occurs when shame moves from a feeling to an identity. At that point, it doesn’t just come and go out of your life like a wave. For some, they actually become the shame that they feel. 

Now let’s take a person who’s addicted. In our case, it could be some kind of unwanted sexual behavior like an addiction to pornography or maybe a same-sex attraction that has caused you to act out in ways you know are unhealthy for your life.

Sure, when we first felt those feelings and chemicals rush through our bodies and our brains, we loved it! We wanted more. 

But soon, the more we acted out in these behaviors, we began realizing something was wrong. Something about what we were watching, what we were experiencing, was actually the complete opposite of what love and intimacy really are. 

We felt shame. And what we didn’t know at the time was the paralyzing effects of it. 

Shame can drive a person into isolation over fear of being discovered. It stops someone from living the full, abundant life that God has for them. 

I think what Dr. Robert Weiss says about shame is so accurate:

“Shame, the inherent belief that we are flawed and unworthy, is a soul-eating emotion. Try to differentiate between feelings of guilt and feelings of shame.”  

It’s important to understand the difference between shame and that other familiar feeling: guilt. What is the real difference between shame and guilt?  Much, much more thank you think. 

Shame is more than an indicator of unhealthy decisions we make. Shame works its way inside the soul convincing us that we are the problem. That there is something wrong with US.

It causes us to take our attention off of what we just did, and turn our focus onto who we are. It literally is, as Weiss describes it: a  “soul-eating emotion”. 

Guilt on the other hand isn’t necessarily an unhealthy thing to feel. In the criminal justice system, when you are found guilty of a crime, you have been proven with the proper evidence to have committed some sort of offense that typically causes harm to others.

So if we keep that general idea in mind, feeling a sense of guilt doesn’t mean we have to live with shame. It means that we recognize we’ve messed up in some way or made an unhealthy decision and we own up to it. 

Feeling guilty over something can not only help us look at our choices, but it can help us dial into our hearts. What’s happening inside of me that I’m choosing porn over community? That I’m isolating in secrecy versus being with people who love me and really care for me? 

Thankfully, if you’ve invited Jesus in your life, you don’t have to live with shame. He paid the price for your shame. This is what we celebrated recently on Easter. 

Today, almost 13 years into recovery from porn addiction, I’m thankful I don’t live with shame. It didn’t come easily, but throughout the last several years, I’ve learned my real identity: a beloved child of God who has value and worth.

I am not the choices that I’ve made in my past or the mistakes I will make.

If you’ve become a friend to shame, it’s time for a serious breakup. Shame will attempt to define you as someone unworthy of love and care. 

Guilt, on the other hand, has a way of pointing to our actions, not our identity. If you’re feeling a sense of guilt today, thank God for the sensitivity you’re feeling to something in your life that is harmful to yourself and other people. 

Own up to your actions, not to shame. Shame doesn’t deserve one more moment of your life.

 

 

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