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Shame is an emotion that has become so ingrained that sometimes we don’t even realize it’s there. It shapes people’s lives for the worse and defines relationships in ways God never intended. Recognizing shame for what it is and realizing that this isn’t God’s best for us is the first step in conquering it.
Shame first appeared in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned; and it’s been hounding mankind ever since. This emotion is a sense of failure in others’ eyes, and it makes us feel inferior, unlovable, and disconnected. But Jesus hates shame so much that He went to the cross and became shame for us so that we would never have to carry this painful, heavy burden. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:6, 7).
When we suffer from shame we tend to make bad choices in our friendships and relationships because of an unhealthy self-image. Guilt over something that happened in the past, whether or not we were responsible for it, may have turned our thoughts from “I made a mistake” to “I am a mistake.” Shame can actually sabotage our future.
When we’re caught in the grip of shame it’s hard to forgive ourselves, and when we can’t forgive ourselves we can’t move on with our lives. God has plans for our future, but we’ll never know what they are until we put our past behind us and let go of whatever painful things are holding us back. We all have a past, but we don’t have to live there; God already forgave us and chose to forget the sins we committed and the mistakes we made. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). We can’t combat shame on our own, but choosing to believe in what Jesus Christ did to permanently banish this emotion from our lives is the key to being delivered from it. “As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 9:33, NKJV).
Shame and fear are strong motivators in the world, and they aren’t God’s will. When others try to lay shame on us because they’re ashamed of something in their own lives, believing God’s Word empowers us to break free of this trap. We don’t have to achieve perfection for Him to love us, and He’s more interested in our future than in our past. “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13, NLT).
There is nothing so bad that we can’t receive forgiveness. God’s grace toward us is greater than sin; therefore we don’t have to listen to any condemning voices in our head when we make a mistake. During His ministry, Jesus forgave an outcast woman at the well (John 4:4-29) and He forgave a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). When we need it, He also offers us the same type of acceptance and forgiveness.