How Do I Get Rid of this Infernal Shame?

Updated: May 4

Shame is arguably the worst feeling that a person can experience. It seems to be something that is felt universally. Growing up, no one escapes shame. So what is it, exactly?

Shame is experiencing the perceived or actual condemning judgment of others.

It is the feeling that others are saying to us, "This is not acceptable to us, to society, and because of it, we have the right to kick you out."

Shame touches on our very instinct for survival, for without inclusion in society, or at least a subgroup of it, we know that we do not have what it takes to make it on our own. We know that we need others in order to eat, clothe ourselves, and find shelter.

More than that, we need others in order to experience love, for love is only possible within relationship.

Constructive shame is when society condemns our behavior. If we steal or murder or do other unacceptable things, society responds by saying, "Don’t DO that. We will abandon you and you will deserve it." This kind of shame keeps us from acting in an overly destructive manner.

But most shame is not this kind. Most shame is when we perceive the condemnation of who we are. Others seem to say, "Don't BE that. We will abandon you and you will deserve it."

This kind of shame is inescapable. We cannot NOT be something! We are who we are.

Because we feel the constant threat of abandonment and we cannot fix the cause of it, we are faced with two options to deal with it:

  • Hide it by being proud. This includes justifying and being aggressive. This option leads to being the controller in most relationships.

  • Hide it by being deflecting attention. This includes withdrawing, self-sabotaging and self-harming, being dependent, being self-analytical, and being perfectionistic. This options leads to being the controllee in most relationships.

This kind of shame usually develops when we are children because we are different from others. It is our differences that threaten others and therefore are looked down upon. This kind of shame is not an emotion; it is the result of another person’s self-righteousness. Look for it on the control wheel.

But we cannot help our differences. God made each of us different for His purposes. We are each unique individuals because of them. Our differences are what makes getting to truly know one another an infinitely deep and satisfying experience.

Our differences are always related to one or more spiritual gifts. But because these gifts highlight what others lack, they look down upon our gifts and judge them.

We then go about hiding these gifts and misusing them. Ironically, this hiding and misuse leads to behaviors that are frowned upon. Then we are shamed for those!

It is a no-win situation. We are shamed for having our gifts and we are shamed for hiding them! Little wonder that shame is the road to suicide ….

Let’s looks at an example of how this happens:

Rick has a gift for affective empathy. Affective empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of others. It is an amazing gift and belongs in the connection facet of love! To sit with another in his fear, to cry with another in his sadness, to celebrate with another in his joy, is experiencing love itself!

But when Rick was a child and other family members experienced negative emotions, they did not want these emotions to flow. They wanted them blocked. They wanted to get rid of them immediately. They wanted them FIXED.

They called Rick "sensitive" and disconnected from him when he felt their emotions. This made Rick fear abandonment. He learned to respond to negative emotions with a physical solution and with disconnection rather than with empathy and connection.

Soon, Rick learned to prevent the negative emotions in others before they even started. He became responsible for preventing everything negative that anyone in the family might eventually feel. This worked fine in his family of origin, but as an adult, this level of responsibility weighed heavily on him. He worked tirelessly to prevent and block his and others’ negative emotions. But he never felt successful. He was constantly feeling his fears and others’ sadness anyway. He could not prevent or block them.

It was Rick’s greatest shame that he continued to be sensitive. It was his greatest shame that he continued to "allow" others to feel bad when there should have been something about it that he could do. It was his greatest shame that he continued to feel sadness and fear, despite all of his efforts not to.

Worse, to a person who wanted love, who needed compassion and connection, Rick’s constant hyper vigilance and disconnection sent the message, "Do not feel sad, or angry, or afraid, or else I will disconnect from you." This made love impossible and caused the other person to experience even more negative emotions, which brought Rick even more shame!

Do you see how such a valuable, wonderful, amazing, and unique spiritual gift has been distorted, misdirected, and misused, all in an effort to avoid feeling the shame of it? Shame that was not even deserved in the first place!!

What is the answer? How do we get rid of this awful, awful shame??

  • We cannot make ourselves not feel shame.

  • We cannot will ourselves to “discover” our greatest gifts.

  • We cannot simply choose to no longer believe the lies about our gifts.

What we can do is:

  1. Become aware. Become aware of your thoughts, your motivations, your emotions. Write about them or speak them out loud to yourself, to God, or to another person. Work through what it is that truly makes you feel ashamed. Keep digging until you get to a point where you are stuck. You will know when there is no more foundational understanding that you can get on your own.

  2. Fully feel the emotions that come up as you become aware of your past hurts. Find time and space alone and allow the tears to flow. Allow the cursing and yelling. Allow the fear to shake your body.

  3. Ask the Divine for help. Write it or say it. Your plea need only be a single sentence. You don’t even have to know exactly what it is that you need. Just the asking, the giving up of trying to find answers yourself, is all that is required. Admit that “I can’t solve this, God. I must depend on you to solve it for me. Show me what I need to know.”

  4. Wait and relax. Forget about your question and go about your business. Trust that He will answer you. You should receive an answer, an insight that will kill the lie but will not bring you more shame, within 24 hours. If you do not, you have not truly let go of trying to solve this on your own.

Sometimes it takes a few insights, a few repetitions of this process, before you are ready to hear the insight that is at the bottom of it all. Be patient with yourself. You have had a lifetime to layer false beliefs, one atop another. It will take time, effort, and trust to unravel it.

Don’t give up!!

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It took me three years to realize that I am a fallen creature. I have been struggling and groping my way back to the Light. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way....

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