Secrets and Shame

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. Brene’ Brown

As a social worker, I’m drawn to qualitative studies that examine human behavior.  As a Christian, I find that most studies, even if they are not faith-based, are rooted in God’s Word.  After all, He is our Creator!  I love Brene’ Brown’s work.  She conducted thousands of interviews and researched, through the testimonies of others, shame and vulnerability.  One of my take-a-ways from her work was that healthy folks shared their story and used their past to help others who were struggling with similar issues. People who embraced their imperfections and owned their story were more joyful and at peace.  

Why is it as Christians we are so comfortable hearing someone else’s testimony?  We extend mercy, love, and feel a connection–we admire their bravery.  Have you ever shared your story only to feel like “What in the world did I just do that for?”  Brene’ calls this the “vulnerability hangover”.

I’m currently on my second cell group of Woman of Worth Mentoring Ministries that started over 14 years ago.  This year we are doing And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh-it is all about sexual purity.  My oldest is 24 years old.  My middle child is 15 years old.  I had a little bit of a rest from such a heavy topic.  Can I just tell you this book sent me to my knees–again.  I was shocked.  I thought I had this under control.  This is the second time I’m doing this book with the current cell group. I’m seasoned.  I got this.  So, I thought.  Oh, I could share so much about that book, but I want to concentrate on one thing in this post–secrecy.

It has taken me 14 years to be honest about my story to a group of teenage girls who had no idea of my testimony. I led Bible study and taught God’s Word, but I was so afraid of telling them my story. I feared that maybe they would say, “Hey!  You turned out okay.”  I anguished they would judge me to be unworthy to teach and lead them.  The enemy told me over and over again, “Don’t tell. You will be labeled less than and unworthy.”  I had well meaning adults who encouraged “don’t tell”.  All of this, shut my mouth but caused huge shame walls to be built.

What I finally came to realize is that not sharing my story and the consequences of my choices limited my work.  I told my story and had a real discussion about sin, consequences, and redemption. I put the lying enemy under my foot and Jesus’ work in my life out there for everyone to hear!

What I love about Dannah’s book is that she doesn’t sugar coat purity and consequences of sexual sin, or avoid the tough talks.  In Bible study we shared how the enemy loves secrets.  The more he can convince you not to tell and keep secrets, the more he can work on building a wall of shame and deep seeded regret. You walk around feeling isolated, alone, and unworthy. And, if you get the courage to follow God’s will despite all the enemies wiles, you are always exhausted and wondering when you’ll be discovered–the phony!  We sometimes cover shame with good works, pretending, and for some, addictions and depression.

I took God at His Word, and He moved more in a few months than I saw in years of ministry.  Revelation tells us that we overcome by the word of our testimony.  It’s true!   Many of the girls in the Bible study shared their hearts because I was willing to be honest about my stuff.  Was it hard? Yes.  Do I have vulnerability hangovers when I share? Yes.  However, I know who to call on–Jesus who is my light in the darkness.  The infinite power of “our light” that Brene’ discovered is truly the light of Jesus within us.  Why do we hide it?  Shame.

Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Shame causes you to replay incidents in your mind and soul, or perhaps you are triggered in some way of a memory, and then the pain and humiliation covers you.  Destroy shame by being vulnerable with someone you trust and who will offer in return their story of redemption, not judgment or betrayal.  If we share our story and consequences of sin against the back drop of God’s Word and blessings when obedient, maybe someone would be significantly influenced to strive for God’s way.

Certainly, it’s prudent to tell someone we can trust implicitly.  Prayerfully consider who and when.  In my sharing, I was careful to not give details that might cause further trauma in the telling.  Professional counseling is an excellent way to uncover details if God is calling you to confess, re-frame, and forgive yourself and others. The greatest gift is to share with someone trustworthy and re-frame using the very Word of God to heal.

We all have a story that God can use to help others.  My heart rejoiced when I heard someone share with me, “Because you were willing to share your imperfections, it gave me the courage to share mine.”  Through one-on-one conversations, secrets were shared and healing took place.  No more barriers!  The redemptive work of Jesus in action!

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame.” (Psalms 34:4-5, NIV)

Sweet friend–Look to Him!  You are radiant with His love!  Begin with Him, and He will direct your path to healing and out of the shame of secrecy.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. Brene’ Brown

Withholding affection often comes from a lack of love for ourselves due to shame.  God calls us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”.  We must first heal and truly know the amazing grace and love of Jesus before we can pour love into the lives of others.  God wants you healed so you can experience the true freedom of His love!

4 comments

  1. Amen! Proud of your bravery and honesty. God has and is doing amazing things through you mama! You are beautiful inside and out and I love you so much!

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