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Making Sense of Shame

Shame is a complex emotion. It makes you pull inwards, takes away your confidence and instils fear. It creates a feeling of worthlessness capable of eventually dragging you into anxiety and depression. Shame often leads you to a dark place, where no one ever wants to go.

Shame affects how you accept yourself. It alters how you feel about people’s gaze. It makes you think that those around see through you and are judging you. You feel the need to hide, and that hiding place becomes your comfort zone. You feel like you are being hunted and your heart races even at the thought of getting out into the open.

The root of shame is often guilt or just not feeling whole – not being the perfect person you always thought you would be. It could have come from words spoken to you that took away your self-esteem. Its origin may lie in not being loved or cared for the way you thought you would be. It could come from being wronged, from your dignity being stolen, and not being allowed to be the person you always dreamed of being. It could also be from your own past actions for which you hold yourself guilty. There is always some hidden underlying reason for such a sense of shame, which can sometimes be so subtle that it lies undetected.

No one ever signs up willingly for any of this. No one would, because it takes away your sense of identity and dignity. But it does happen to people around us, and more often than we think.

Now imagine how you would feel if your shame is gone. If all your shame was taken away just like that, wouldn’t you feel more confident and better prepared to take on the world? For many people, the breakthrough comes when they find someone who is willing to look at them without being judgemental. Surprisingly, we begin to embrace ourselves when we realise that someone else has accepted us just as we are!

The idea of God may seem far-fetched in a modern world of science and sophistication. However, the true essence of God is all-embracing love towards each one of us. The Bible says we are the best of his creation, the apple of his eye. God values us more than anyone else does. In his eyes, our worth and dignity comes from us being made in his own image, very different from the fractured and broken image we attribute to ourselves or that we may currently see in our lives.

God has already accepted each one of us just as we are – guilt, regret, resentment and all. He knows we are human – that’s why his embrace is of gracious forgiveness even when we feel totally undeserving of this. There is no judgement and every speck of guilt and shame is wiped away with his presence. When we reach out to God, he is so overjoyed that he celebrates. God’s forgiving touch restores our wholeness and dignity, meaning there’s no reason to hide anymore. And then, as we walk with him as his children, he begins transforming our lives and characters into testaments of divine beauty, as they were always meant to be.

If you live with a deep sense of shame today, would you allow God’s love to restore your integrity and bring joy and celebration back into your life? Because no one ever deserves to be in shame.

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