Exposing Shame and Condemnation

She looked at me intently. “What do these self-condemning voices tell you?”

I shook my head and tried to laugh it off. “I mean, it sounds ridiculous…I don’t know.”

But she was serious. “What are some of the things they say?”

My uncomfortable laugh gave way to a single tear and my loud, overconfident voice faded to a whisper. “That I’m not good enough. That I don’t deserve anything good. That I’m…a faker. All I do is hurt other people and…” I swallowed hard. “…ruin everything, no matter how hard I try. That I’m not…I’m not worth it.”

She continued to look at me, pen poised over paper. I was mortified that these things were being written down. “What else?” she prodded gently.

I took a deep breath and continued.

And the healing began.

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This picture is of me. I realize how awkward that is, especially since I’m not depressed. In fact, I had to set my camera very precariously on a chair, click the self-timer, and throw myself against the wall in a depressed heap in 6 seconds. This is what happens when your roommate is gone, leaving you model-less.

But the scene I described above was the first time I had ever actually voiced aloud the self-condemning thoughts that have haunted me my whole life. And I share this with you because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I’m pretty sure that, on some level, all of us have dealt with shame and condemnation.

Most people who know me would describe me as an ambitious, confident person — and most of the time, I am.

But sometimes, I’m not.

And so tonight, at the risk of destroying that image, I’m going to publicly uncover the lies I’ve believed about myself — because I want to empower you to do the same.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about shame: It’s not from God.

Conviction of sin comes from the Holy Spirit and it is constructive. If you have hurt someone and you feel a prick of guilt that prompts you to make things right, that is conviction. But if you have overwhelming, dehumanizing, relentless shame that attacks who you are rather than what you’ve done, that’s a sign that there is no truth in it. 

“I’m disgusting.” “I’m worthless.” “I’m damaged.” These are all statements that focus on identity, but even if they stem from things you have done in the past, your actions do not determine your identity. If you are in Christ, you have a new identity that is not based on anything you have done. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). You are a child of the King, He loves you, He wants you to have abundant life, and He never intends for you to be paralyzed by guilt. Conviction is enabling; shame is incapacitating. If you recognize it as something that holds you back, it’s a lie that needs to be exposed.

And that is the only way you can begin to defeat shame: to expose it for the ridiculous lie it is, to speak it out loud and watch its power disintegrate.

You see, shame only exists inside your mind. It thrives on secrecy and solitary confinement. You feel as though it’s too shameful to be revealed, and so you keep it inside where it builds on itself, where it hides in the dark corners of your mind and consumes you.

But you are not alone.

You are not alone.

The longer you keep it inside, the more doubt it creates. The truer it seems. The more it paralyzes you.

When lies remain unspoken in your mind as vague and abstract thoughts, as intangible concepts that you can’t capture or put your finger on, they control you.

But when you identify them, when you force them into words, when you speak the lies out loud…

…they sound ridiculous. They are baseless accusations that only appear daunting because they hide in shadow, looming over you, larger than life. But when brought into the light, they wither away. They cannot intimidate you, because they are only ominous when cloaked in darkness. They can no longer control you.

Speak them. Write them down, in all their humiliating, hideous glory. It doesn’t matter who you are or what image you think you have to uphold.

“There’s something wrong with you.”

“You’re a waste of time and money.”

“How can you even call yourself a pastor? Who do you think you are?”

“You’ll never get better. This is who you are and all you’ll ever be.”

“You’re the only one.”

“You can’t tell anyone…what would they think of you?”

Whatever that thought is that you’re thinking right now — force it to speak, force it to show itself. It’s the only way to be free.

I’m begging you not to suffer in silence. Don’t wait, hoping it will disappear; it won’t go away unless you expose it. The moment you hear a voice of self-condemnation, before you even allow it to take root, write it down, tell someone, and laugh at its absurdity. If you feel like you have no one to talk to about it, please shoot me a message. It doesn’t matter who you are. You just need to get it out there.

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” –Ephesians 5:13-14.

Make the choice to be free today.


Published in: on September 13, 2013 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Awake, Christian — see the light of coming dawn and rise up from death.

Christ didn’t leave His tomb for you to stay in yours; the stone has been rolled away and every chain is broken.

Jesus Christ has defeated death and sits in power at the right hand of God Almighty.

The same strength which raised Him to life is at work in you.

How can you rejoice on Easter morning if you haven’t been set free?

This is a truth that cannot be half-heartedly believed.  This is a truth that must be lived.

If it matters that Jesus didn’t stay dead, let it make a difference in you.

Rise up, Christian.

Resurrection is waiting.

Published in: on March 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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This Love

What then shall I bring you, Father, when you only ever wanted me? I can’t understand this love that asks nothing. Surely there’s something you expect of me. Isn’t love conditional? To protect myself I must earn it, for the facade I’ve built depends on this wall of pride.

Always feigning strength, now openly weak; always showing indifference, now visibly moved; always guarded, now completely disarmed; transparent and vulnerable, I am brought to my knees in brokenness before this all-encompassing love. As a loving parent’s thumb gently wipes tear stains from the face of a child, so this love washes over me, healing the scars of my past and making me new.

I have always tried so hard. I have made myself someone I’m not and have let my worth be determined by the opinions of others. I have lived my life chasing the unattainable, trying to reach everyone’s expectations. I have pushed myself to the point of breakdown to find their approval. I have given everything… everything but myself.

But this love does not ask of me perfection. It does not ask beauty or intelligence or talent. It does not ask me to do anything, but simply to be; it asks me to be nothing more than who I am.  It accepts me completely with all of my flaws and my faults and my mistakes. It wants me despite my insecurity and my hesitation and my confusion. It is beautiful in its simplicity…yet also challenging in its passion.

For while asking less, it demands more than I have ever given in any relationship. It demands all of me. It demands my heart.

This love asks nothing, and this love asks everything. Let go, He says, and I will hold you. Abandon your image; I will never leave you. Cease striving, for the work is done. Only give me your heart.

Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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You said You came to give me abundant life. Why then am I living in darkness and abiding in death?

You said it was for freedom that You set me free. Why then is my spirit fettered and my soul in chains?

No sooner was Your blood shed for me, than I drew my own blood to satisfy my debt. No sooner did You purchase my freedom, than I sold myself back to the world.

You opened the prison doors to a new life of promise, yet I forfeit the possibilities by enslaving myself time and time again.

How You must grow weary of bringing back this wayward heart. Come in search of me yet again, Father.

As Hosea redeemed Gomer though she enslaved herself — as You liberated Your people Israel from their self-imposed captivity — so also redeem me.

Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heads Held High

Leviticus 23:16 — “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.”

Something about the powerful imagery of this verse evokes a response. It stirs our emotions. It speaks to our deep longing for freedom.

When we are conquered by a more powerful entity than ourselves and are forced to surrender control to the conqueror, our pride takes a beating. Human nature dictates the necessity of retaining control over your property, and when control over yourself is relinquished, fear and shame result.

From the pride we take in our self-sufficiency, it follows that we would naturally fear any threat to our sense of self. We fear the future because we feel unprepared; we fear death because it has the final word. Fear is the natural response to a lack of control, and the natural reaction to fear is self-preservation — shielding yourself to retain control over your physical body as a last resort when protection is gone. A ducked head is an indication of insecurity; a head held high is a sign of courage and inner strength.

Submission is also a direct threat to our pride in that it forces an unwilling admission of weakness. We want to be viewed as the conquering heroes, not the conquered slaves. To be subservient to a stronger opponent is to be stripped of our dignity; when it is not within our power to restore our status, we feel shame. No one likes to lose or to be overcome; frankly, it’s embarrassing. We feel that it is disgraceful to be seen in our helpless state of surrender, so we hide our faces from the judgmental eyes of the world. A bowed head is an indication of shame; a head held high is a sign of freedom and self-respect.

All of us have experienced the fear and shame of being controlled by something stronger than ourselves; addictions would defnitely fall into that category. Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin — once we give in to our desires, soon we find that we are no longer in control, but that sin has mastered us. As the consequences pile up, eventually we are hardly able to stand under the weight of fear and shame.

But the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt is still in the business of redemption. His name is Jesus, for He has saved His people from their sins and enabled us to walk with heads held high — Unconquered. Unashamed. Unafraid.

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Untamed Spirit

I cannot be tamed; my restless heart, ever wandering, cannot be tied down.  I am independent; you will find that the tighter you hold onto me, the more easily I slip away, like sand through clenched fingers.  I am difficult to handle; if you try to tighten my reins, I will take the bit in my teeth and jerk them from your hands, leaving a painful rope burn across your palm (sorry, guys, that’s just the way I am…lol).

 Once free, I live with abandon.  I constantly reach for what is beyond my grasp; my eyes search the horizon for what lies just out of sight.  It is this compelling desire to find something more that drives me onward, unpredictable as the wind and just as free, unbound by human expectations. 

My heart surrenders only to one, for He has not bound me.  He does not attempt to control me nor to crush my spirit; neither does He grovel and place himself beneath me.  He leads me with strength, and I willingly follow without compromising my passion and my freedom.  My wild and unbridled heart finds rest in Him; it is this very submission that gives wings to my untamed spirit.

Dia tou Christou — through Christ.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Through the Eyes of a Kite

Written March 9, 2011.

I feel myself slipping back down to earth against my will, farther and farther from the sky for which I am so desperately reaching. I have no control over the force of gravity, for I am only a puppet in the world to which I am tethered. The cursed fate to which I am subjected is this: to hover between two worlds, suspended in the expanse between earth and heaven, controlled by the capricious fancies of every breeze by which I am caught. Made to fly yet held captive, bound to the earth by a string yet unable to find rest there, I am out of place wherever I find myself. I belong nowhere; I dance restlessly at the end of my string, anxious to satisfy the longing I feel for something more, for what is tantalizingly beyond my reach.

Pulled in every direction, I am beginning to show the wear of the buffeting wind. My bright color is fading, my stitching raveling. Yet the closer I come to the end of the life I have spent enslaved to the limitations of earth and the whims of its children who laugh as they tug me ever downward, the more rapidly my liberation approaches. Even now I feel as though I could almost touch the clouds and reach their silver lining. Oh, indecisive string, blown here and there and frayed by the winds of conflicting desire, what a joyful day it will be when your threads snap and cut your ties to the world. Then I will be free.

Dia tou Christou — through Christ.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment