This is a guest post from Mark Shawky - a life coach with a passion for helping others discover their best selves who has also guest posted on this blog before. You can follow him on twitter, @Shawky_Mark. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Shortly after starting my Masters program, I was seeking to do something a little more to give back to the community; so I entered coaching school. For those who aren’t familiar with life coaching, it’s goal is to address everyday issues to help someone move forward from good to great – as opposed to therapy which aims to help people move from dysfunction to functional.
Utilizing my former psychology degree to expand into coaching, I noticed a common thread between many of my clients-- it’s that dirty little feeling we like to avoid and run away from whenever possible; that gremlin that forces us to cower in pain as reminders of our past shortcomings, sins, and faults come to light…SHAME!
Whether I am working on leadership skills with business executives or helping regular people establish healthy relationships, shame always seems to be there – surfacing in every coaching session, rooted in the consciousness of the client, and rendering them powerless by nurturing a victim mentality. Shame can feed off your fear, crippling you just as easily; preventing you from moving forward in life.
From what I’ve seen, shame manifests itself in two very distinct ways. For men, shame takes the form of “exposure”. Being exposed as “not good enough”, or “not being able”, or as weak and vulnerable. For women, shame takes on the impossible look of perfectionism; women begin to question if they can ever be a great wife and a loving mother who somehow manages to keep it all together, and begin to ruminate about what might happen if she can’t.
Sound familiar? Yea, I thought so!
The first thing we need to understand in pushing past shame, is that we are not alone-- & that idea is what makes it deadly to the soul. We feel isolated because we have become experts at hiding our weaknesses and flaws from others, not realizing that others suffer an identical mould of the same pain we work so hard to conceal.
As a child, I had a skewed impression of God. I thought God wanted us to play the martyr, experiencing shame (wrongfully calling it humility) as part of the understanding that we have to “suffer to be good Christians.”
But we quickly forget: Christ came to take that punishment and shame so that we wouldn’t. So why is it so difficult to let go?
Wherever there is perfectionism, shame becomes the biggest supporter, wherever we see vulnerability, we wait for shame to harden us back up. This comes from the idea Christ expects our achievement, when in reality, He expects our efforts. Christ came to achieve what we could not, because we already fall short.
Today’s achievements would take the form of the title, the perfect house, the perfect family, the luxury car, & flawless friends and relationships. Should we fall short of anything less—shame has no problem hinging on to the demands of our culture and society: reminding us of our perceived shortcomings.
To overcome our shame – or its lifetime BFF…GUILT – we need to bring it into God’s healing light. Now, that does not mean shouting it from the rooftop and wearing it as a scarlet letter, but rather allowing ourselves to be naked in front of God.
The story of Adam and Eve is centered on shame. God found the fresh-off-of-sin couple hiding in shame behind fig leaves; he instead covered them in a more dignified manner with a robe of animal skin (which might I add required a righteous sacrifice). God knew their nakedness would leave them exposed once banished from the Garden of Eden, and yet he still insisted on helping Adam and Eve more fully cover their shame from the world after they acknowledged their nakedness before God.
We often find ourselves ashamed of a number of things – sometimes even things that aren’t our fault nor in our control. The key is remembering that shame is a wasted and self-defeating emotion to which God has no interest in contributing. Rather, He wants our healing. If we address our shame and bring it into God’s light instead of the world’s judgment, He assures us that
“For your shame you shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be to them” (Isaiah 61:7).
God’s interest is not in humbling you to the point of shame; but rather allowing you to humble yourself in revealing your shame to Him in return for healing. You have the choice: turn shame into the key to your freedom, or continue to allow it to be the prison of your life.