5 Hidden Consequences of Shame
Shame. Shame is the fear of being unworthy, and it adversely affects our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. Shame makes us feel small, unwanted, and unloved. And if we don’t learn how to identify and overcome it, shame will ruin our lives and keep us from fulfilling our destiny.
Shame was my companion from my earliest memories, a huge part of my life and identity. My classmates teased me for my Greek heritage, I felt cultural pressures at home to abandon my passions for sports and academics for those of traditional gender roles, and as a victim of sexual abuse, I was ashamed of the horrible things that happened to me.
No matter the source, shame is a powerfully painful emotion that shackles us in the prison of our pasts, and if we aren’t careful, we will stay there—missing out on the beautiful lives created for us. That is why it is so important for us to identify and deal with areas of shame in our life.
Here are five often-hidden consequences of shame that keep us from the life of freedom we were created for:
1. Shame whispers lies to our soul. Shame lies—big time. Even today, every now and then, unless I am vigilant, shame still tries to sneak up on me at unexpected times. Others will find out you are weak, then you will lose their respect and damage your ministry. Don’t be vulnerable! Only project strength.
In order for us not to believe the lies of shame, we must be rooted deeply in the truths of our self-worth and God’s love for us. When we hear the lies, rather than believe them, we must claim God’s truth and love for ourselves, robbing shame of the power it once held in our lives.
2. Shame hinders our ability to receive God’s unconditional love. The biggest lie that shame loves to tell is that we are unworthy. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of affection. Unworthy of inclusion. Unworthy of happiness. When we hear and believe these things day in and day out, it makes it nearly impossible to comprehend that there’s a love without conditions—a love that accepts us just the way we are. But the moment you start to move toward God’s unconditional love, your healing from shame will begin.
3. Shame prompts us to toss away the good gifts we are given. Shame has a way of manifesting in the nooks and crannies of our souls, keeping us from truly using and exploring the good gifts that God has placed inside of us. If we allow shame to keep us from using our good gifts, we will never be able to fully experience the life that God created with each of us in mind.
We need to recognize our value and understand that we are a gift—an expression of who God is—and the world needs what he has deposited in us.
4. Shame keeps us from seeking help. It’s sneaky like that, growing in shadowy places until those struggling with it are too ashamed to seek help from the very shame that enslaves them. It lives within women who worship beside you at church, work in the next cubicle, attend your workout class, entertain you on TV, smile at you from magazine covers, or live next door.
The challenge is that we’ve been shackled in the dark for so long that the darkness has crippled and immobilized us, but the only way that we can be healed from our shame is to acknowledge, uncover, and hold up our wounds to the One who can help. There is freedom on the other side, but we can’t get there on our own.
5. Shame teaches us to hide. For those of us schooled in shame, hiding is our go-to coping skill to guard ourselves against the pain of disapproval or judgment, condemnation or mockery, belittlement or exposure, or worse—just fill in the blank with your unique circumstance. Enough practice and we become masters at hiding from others and eventually ourselves.
But instead of hiding, we must choose to seek. We must choose to seek God’s love, his unconditional grace and acceptance. There’s an astounding promise that comes with his love—that nothing can separate you from it—not even shame.
If I can be set free from shame through the love of Jesus, than anyone can! I want everyone to experience his miraculous love. That’s why I’ve written the book, Unashamed. That’s why I travel and teach. That’s why I help others gain freedom through the work of A21. That’s why I reach out with Propel Women.
I want people to know that they too are free to choose to get up and get moving into the beautiful future God has for them, and discover an abundance of freedom.