Written by Hannah Schneider.

 

Shame... 

is something we all experience. Dr. Brene Brown, a psychologist who has studied shame intensively for years, defined shame like this in an interview entitled “Shame is Lethal”: Shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. She also insists that the less you talk about it, the more you’ve got it. In other words, shame thrives off secrecy and self preservation. Fighting our shame and ongoing struggles with temptation is a daily thing. So how do we do it? How do we combat shame? What is shame’s number one enemy?

In a word, vulnerability.

What does it mean to make ourselves vulnerable and how does it have the power to bring you into a place of freedom and intimacy? While everyone has a different journey when it comes to healing, there are three general phases to practicing vulnerability and combating shame.  

Phase One: Get a new perspective.

Most of us are afraid of being vulnerable because our whole lives, we are taught either by family members or the culture that being vulnerable is the equivalent of being weak. I know especially in the United States, this is a serious misconception that is widely held. The reason it’s so important to understand that vulnerability is not a weakness, is because it is something you absolutely have to walk through in order to know courage.

The dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” And let’s face it, opening yourself up to possible scrutiny and judgement can be devastating. Sadly, most of the time in this life, the things that are valuable and worth it can’t be attained without a great deal of pain and endurance. Emotional and spiritual wellness takes battering, bruising, and resilience to acheive.To be held under the light can be a great and terrifying grace.

The grace of God over our lives manifests itself magnanimously when we make ourselves vulnerable. When we feel the emotional strain and fear of exposing our hearts to God and to others, God is in the midst of our pain. Our weakness allows His strength to take center stage when we come out on the other side, better and more whole because of it. Because of His goodness and what He accomplished on the cross, we share in His strength. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Phase Two: Create transparency in your relationship with God.

God already knows our hearts and souls. He knows our motivations, our hidden sins, our fears and our deepest shame. But, when you willingly confess those things to Christ, it is the act of laying your burdens at His feet. It’s saying “Jesus, I believe you when you said it is finished, so here you go. Please take this guilt from me. “

The second part to that, however, is learning to receive God’s grace. Often times, we hold grudges against ourselves even though God has already forgiven us. Self hatred and pity ultimately stem from pride. It stems from the desire to be independent of God’s mercy. We are uncomfortable with the fact that we bring nothing to the table. And so sometimes, asking for forgiveness is the easy part, and accepting His forgiveness is the difficult part.

If we only knew the depth of His love for us, perhaps we would be compelled otherwise. The Bible repeatedly talks about the loving and kind nature of our God. He has an incomprehensibly profound compassion for our suffering. He is so invested in our emotional health that He takes the time to address His role in it several times in the Bible. These are just a few examples from the Psalms and Revelations.

Psalm 34:18 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Revelation 21:4 

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Understanding and actively believing in the goodness of our merciful Lord, and being willing to open ourselves up to Him because of that faith, transforms our hearts and grows our intimacy with God.

Phase 3: Share vulnerability with others.

The final and often most difficult step to combating shame, is to confess to one another. Dr. Brene Brown, whom I mentioned earlier, makes a compelling statement when she says, “Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. Shame depends on us buying in to the belief that we’re alone.” The Bible also has many verses that speak about this.

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

1 John 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

God doesn’t command us to confess our sins to one another because He wants us to be humiliated. Quite the opposite, God commands us to confess to one another to bring us into the freedom of walking in the light. He wants to bring healing into our lives, and one of the ways He’s able to do that is by holding our hand when we confess our shame to others. God knows we’re scared, but He also knows what’s best. You can have assurance that everything God commands us to do is for our good and not for harm. This is the hope we hold onto that transforms us. This is the hope that gives us the courage to live out transparency, and to embrace the light.

Walking in the light takes courage and resolve. It forces you to face yourself, your past and your present. But it sows spiritual joy and freedom for the future. Walking into the light is what compels us to bring the light, to be vessels for God’s glory and artful craftsmanship. It compels us to dance in it, to rest in it, and to bring others with us into it. Vulnerability is the first step towards the light, and that’s how it begins. Just one step at a time. Every step bringing you closer to the living out freedom in fullness, and taking off the shackles shame puts us in. You can’t stay locked up down there forever. You don’t have to beat yourself against the bars of life apart from God, because Jesus already gave you the keys to Heaven.

Now get up and walk out.

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