Overcoming Guilt and Shame
I remember when I was a child, there was a little saying that went “Shame, shame I know your name”. This was said as someone pointed and wiped their finger at you for doing something wrong. Even as a child being shamed and felling guilty was a hard feeling to deal with. Just imagine the child version of yourself being told “shame, shame I know you name.” Imagine putting your head down and fighting back the tears or holding back the anger to lash back. Well, the shame and guilt you felt as a child is nothing compared to the shame and guilt you may have experienced as an adult. Shame and guilt are two vigorous and dark feelings. Shame and guilt can be the most haunting of all human emotions. Flashbacks of wrong choices you have made can be just as haunting as the flashbacks about decisions others have made that have also greatly affected your life. The non-stop overthinking of different scenarios……
“If I only didn’t go..”
“If I just would have stayed home..”
“If I went with my gut feeling to say no in the first place then….”
“If I just would have stopped..”
“Why did I make so many excuses?”
“What was I thinking?”
“How do I fix it?”
“Why didn’t I put a stop to it?”
These are just a few things people say to themselves when they are being tortured with guilt and shame.
Knowing the difference between right and wrong, knowing what pleases God and saddens His heart. Knowing the feeling of guarding your testimony to seeing a big gash take place that you fully had part putting there comes with so much guilt and so much shame. Knowing no matter how bad you want a due over you never really get to erase what happened. Even forgiveness itself doesn’t change what you did and that is a really hard reality to except for yourself. Many of my blogs have dealt with people not forgiving you when you make a mistake because you have a title in front of your name. But what happens when it’s you who can’t forgive yourself? When you constantly tell yourself, “you should have known better” or “How could you be so stupid?”
Sometimes the guilt and shame others put on us are nothing compared to the guilt and shame we put on ourselves. Maybe the people around you don’t even know how much guilt and shame you are already walking around with. If they could look at you through your eyes, they would see how low your head hangs when you walk. If only they could see the constant inner battle of wanting to throw in the towel and just give up. If these people noticed, they would see the sleepless nights and the endless tears that you cry wishing you could take it all back. Making a mistake can take moments, but healing from that same mistake in your own heart feels like an eternity or even impossible.
As a leader we are well aware that our life and our choices don’t affect just us, but those who have been entrusted to us. This fact may be easily forgotten as us leaders are doing something wrong, but you remember it a second after the choice is made. The truth that you made a mistake hits hard, and you recognize that you let yourself and those around you down. It hits the depths of your heart and soul like arrows of guilt, shame, and regret for our mistakes.
If you have ever had a hard time looking in the mirror, you just might know what I am talking about. Guilt and shame are grim, real, raw, and life changing feelings. I know they can be so hurtful and it can seem like they will never go away. Sometimes we get to the point of just thinking guilt and shame is what we deserve for what we have done in the past and present. We beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down. I know I have said this before and I will say it again:
The grace you have preached to others is the same grace that is offered to you!
Guilt and shame are real feelings, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in them and it doesn’t make them right. You and I are so much better than our worse mistake. You and I are worth so much more then we may have made ourselves worth. The God that I serve is not a God of guilt and shame, but instead a God of grace and second and hundredth chances! No we don’t ever want to take advantage of his grace, but we do want to use it as advances from our sinful mistake to our glorious come back! God is not done with you, he still wants to use you. Sometimes the biggest setbacks launch us into the biggest blessings. This is all because of the unfailing grace of God. I pray that you would lay guilt and shame at the feet of Jesus. I pray that you would begin to walk with your head held high again. Know that you are not damaged goods. You are a diamond that has been through the fire. You messed up but you won’t stay down because you know, Grace is greater than titles.