1. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
“she was hot with shame”
|synonyms:||humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, embarrassment,indignity, discomfort|
Perhaps you are where I used to be. Maybe you hear the whispers behind your back or see the glances that you were not meant to see. Possibly, you feel like you cannot look anyone in the eyes and your head is down from shame. You know that everyone in your church or town know what your spouse did, and you can only imagine what people must think about you.
Do any of these phrases ring true for you? “She is stupid for staying with him.” “She must not have much self-esteem or self-confidence if she is staying with him after what he did.” “There must be something she did wrong.” “This is somehow her fault.” “She must think she deserves what happened, otherwise she would leave.” “She’s too scared that she can’t make it without him.” “She is a glutton for punishment.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
When my husband cheated on me, I was not surprised to feel angry, afraid, confused, bitter, and depressed. Shame, on the other hand, took me totally by surprise. As a matter of fact, several months passed before I realized that what I was feeling was shame. Once I realized this, I was confused. Why was I feeling so much shame? I was the innocent one. I had done nothing wrong. I struggled to understand it.
At one point, I grew so distressed over what I imagined people were thinking and saying about me that I confided in a good Christian friend of mine. I knew she would be honest with me. I told her how I felt so ashamed, like people were judging me for what my husband did and that people thought I must be an idiot for not leaving him. As I talked to her, she began to shake her head. Once I finished, she said, “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t see it that way at all. I, for one, have nothing but respect for you. I totally respect your decision and I have come to have enormous respect for you.” She also told me that people who knew me and knew my heart understood my choice. In time, I discovered that at first, many friends and family thought I should leave my husband and could not understand why I stayed with him. Eventually, though, family and friends revealed to me that they had come to have a lot of respect for me and see me in a different light. They had come to respect my decision to stay and try to save my marriage.
Until this time, though, I struggled with shame a lot. I felt like a teenager again—with feelings of not measuring up and not being good enough. There must be something wrong with me. I was somehow inadequate. The feelings of low self-esteem that plagued me in my adolescence were rearing their pestering heads again, and I was taken off guard. I could not stand it. I did not want people talking about me, gossiping or feeling sorry for me. “Poor little (my name) must not think she’s good enough or else she would leave.” I was under almost constant assault by these feelings and thoughts.
I knew what God was telling me to do, but I was extremely preoccupied with what I thought others were thinking or saying about me. In retrospect, on some level, I had begun to believe some of these lies and think these things about myself. Instead of using the Word of God to combat these thoughts, I fell into the trap of trying to reason the thoughts away. I was trying to do for myself what only God could do. I kept myself in the prison of shame for much longer than was necessary because of it.
After I talked to my good friend, my perspective slowly began to change. Maybe some people were thinking and saying some bad things about me. I had no control over that. I did not have the time or energy to continue to worry about such things. The anxiety was weighing too heavily on me, so I had to find a way to resolve the issue in my heart and mind. Slowly, as I sought God and shared my feelings and thoughts with Him, He began to show me that obeying Him and standing firm in my decision would have far greater impact than caving in to pressure from others, whether the pressure was real or imagined. I began to understand that, in the end, it would not matter what others thought of me; what mattered was what God thought of me. He was the one I was going to have to answer to, not men. The situation was one in which I had to trust that God would sort it all out in the end. I could almost hear God whispering, “So what? So what if people talk about you and make fun of you? Get over yourself and stop worrying about it. You know what to do, so do it. I will take care of the rest of it.” I gradually realized that I should not expect people who had not been where I was to understand. If they wanted to gossip, I could not stop them. God would have to deal with that. In the end, God would help my righteousness shine as brightly as the noon day sun (see Psalm 37:5-7). God would defend me if and when I needed a defense.
I will not lie and say this was easy for me. I found it very difficult at first to continue to cast off the nagging feeling of shame and obey God. I could not stand it that others were gossiping about me and making assumptions that were not true. I wrestled with these things even after God spoke to me. I began to understand, however, that I was already trusting God with so many other things so why couldn’t I trust Him with this matter? He was being faithful to handle all the other things so He would be faithful to handle my feelings of shame and to silence those who were speaking about things they did not understand. Once I came to this realization and began to consistently apply it to my life, the relief and freedom I felt were unbelievable! When Satan tried to lead me back to the prison of shame, I now had the key to defeating him. Like Jesus, I exercised authority over him and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” I set my face like flint and walked on. Only now I was walking in freedom, no longer hindered by the chains of fear and shame. So, if you find yourself wrestling with shame, be encouraged! God has given you all you need to conquer it. In Christ, you are MORE than an overcomer (Romans 8:37). Hold on to the truths of God so that you can recognize and destroy the lies of the enemy!