The Five Letter Word That No One Wants to Talk About

I was at a coffee shop one night, enjoying the luxury of catching up on some adult conversation with a friend while our children were at home. I told her I was writing my first book, and being the supportive friend that she is, she asked eagerly, “What’s it about?” I answered, “Shame.” I was caught off-guard when her smile faded, her eyebrows crinkled into a look of concern. “Oh, Lindsay. Why? What’s wrong?” This was the first of several conversations with other people who responded similarly, as if they wondered, “What terrible thing happened to make you feel ashamed?”

Shame is the five letter word that no one wants to fess up to.

I had had no idea that shame was a problem for me until the Lord revealed it through scripture study. Then, as I studied the work of Brené Brown, I began to understand that though we may not like to admit it, we all experience shame (with the exception of sociopaths).

Shame is the fear of losing connection with others due to our perceived unworthiness. Guilt results from a discrepancy between our values and our behavior (i.e., “I’ve done a bad thing”) and motivates us to change. Shame is when I feel that I am a bad person and am unworthy of love. This feeling is so devastating that it is difficult to move from shame to a change in behavior. Our instinct is to cover up rather than lean into the pain of allowing our shame to be revealed. We use various coping strategies to protect ourselves when we feel ashamed, such as people pleasing, deceit, boasting, feigning apathy, defensiveness, withdrawing, and hustling for worthiness as we place our self-worth in accomplishments. When shame prevents us from dealing openly and honestly with sin, we can’t experience the abundant life God offers.

Hebrews 12:7-8, 10-11 says:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. …but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Four truths from this passage can help us deal with shame in a healthy way.

1. God is good. This is so simple and overly familiar to seasoned believers, but many of us perceive God as waiting to catch us misbehaving so that He can retaliate. Verse 7 says that He is treating us as his children when He disciplines us. We need to know and believe, deep down, that nothing we can do will cause us to lose favor with the Lord once we belong to Him. All discipline from the Lord is for our good. When we struggle with this, we can ask God to reveal His goodness and we can study His character in scripture. He delights to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

2. You are not the exception. Verse 8 says, “…and everyone undergoes discipline…” (emphasis added). One of the lies shame tells us is that we are the exception. Other people may experience God’s love and forgiveness, but shame tells us that we cannot or will not, that our sin is worse, our shame runs deeper. Shame does not want to be spoken, so one of the most effective ways to deal with it is to connect with someone you trust who will listen without judgment and say, “Me too.” When we connect with others who are open about their struggles, shame loses its power to isolate us.

3. If you want the inheritance, you have to have the discipline. Verse 8 also says, "If you are not disciplined…then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” A true son or daughter has inheritance rights. When God reconciled us to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we (believers) became coheirs with Christ. We have an inheritance of abundant life that God desires us to experience here and now, but the way to accepting the inheritance comes through the refining chastening of the Lord.

4. Shame does not lead to righteousness and peace. Verse 11 says that though discipline is painful at the time, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Shame keeps us from taking an honest look at our sin and bringing it before the Lord. As we are refined through trials, God allows us to experience the painful process of having our sin exposed so that He can heal and forgive us. This process sanctifies us and moves us toward our inheritance of righteousness and peace.

Though shame is part of the human experience, we can learn to move more quickly to bringing our shame to Jesus for healing as we grow in faith and trust in His goodness.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

-Hebrews 4:15-16

After five years of teaching elementary school, Lindsay is now living her dream of being a stay-at-home mom to two lovely daughters, which is harder, less glamorous, and much better than she had imagined it would be. She teaches adult ESL and co-leads a Be the Bridge group for racial reconciliation. She is embarking on a new journey with the writing of her first book, which draws from her experiences with motherhood, pregnancy loss, and postpartum anxiety/depression. Her book-in-progress explores how shame plays into these struggles and offers Scripture-based insights into how to move beyond shame and into the abundant life Jesus desires for His children. She has a passion for creating safe spaces for women to share their stories and struggles and would love to hear from you! You can find her over at her blog, Rooted in Love: http://blog.lindsayoconnor.com

Finding God In... SEXUAL ASSAULT

I have spend the past few months of my life building emotional barricades. To protect myself, to avoid, and to ensure that no one could fully reach me. Yet beyond those walls a whirlwind of confusion, betrayal, and hopelessness consumed me. The pain of acknowledging my sexual assault gripped me and stripped away pieces of myself that I desperately clung to- yet somehow I still felt them slip between my fingers. The greater the storm weathered behind my walls of self protection, the greater I felt that I was incapable of being loved. I was repulsed by men, myself, and the idea of shining light on my dark and ugly situation; so I did my best to bury it. With the burying of my hurt though, I started to drown myself too. I spent many days covering the gifts that God equipped me with, determined to never allow someone to hurt me again. Instead of radiating joy, compassion, and gentleness- I hid myself in layers of sadness, shame, and anger. It wasn’t until I hit an unexpected low of raging anger through a panic attack that I chose to pray into my pain of being sexually assaulted by someone I considered to be a good friend. As God unveiled those jagged blankets of protection I casted upon myself, He took my hand and began leading me into my freedom. At first, I only slowly inched forward. I extenuated the situation in my mind in attempt to relieve some of the intense emotions I experienced. It took weeks to turn my resistance around into acceptance. And once I hit that milestone- again it took excessive tears, long therapy sessions, fits of rage, and even throwing things to allow acceptance to meet the beginning of healing. It was ugly. Some days I felt angry for the injustice, some days I simply felt sad for myself, and others were spent feeling frustrated at being 'stuck' in a season of healing. My emotions took deep root in pain and felt too heavy to bring before anyone. But in my brokenness is where God spoke softly to me and held me together. He gently took apart my defense mechanism so that His love could flow freely.

It is through each shattered piece of my heart that God shed His light. He taught me to become acquainted with each step of the healing process. To stop and look around, to sit in the stinging pain when I felt it, to cry out to Him in it. On the days where I felt stuck and helpless, He sent people to sit in the mess and cry with me. On the days where I felt intense anger, He sent a dear friend to pray peace over me as I launched big rocks over a cliff in between my tears. On the days where I felt so frustrated with what felt like a lack of progress, He scattered little gifts of joy to sustain me. Currently, He is showing me how much He absolutely delights in me. And through this whole process, He has directed me to passages throughout scripture that tell beautiful stories of redemption and healing.

Sometimes I wish for this hurt to be gone. I wish I didn’t second guess people who try to love me through it. I wish little things wouldn’t set me off. I wish this wouldn’t scar my heart, and instead it would quickly disappear. But, this will be used for good. This pain that I have become so familiar with will one day allow me to walk with someone who has too, been broken. This suffering will not return void and the enemy can no longer dangle fear over my head. I know that God is piecing this story together to bring glory to His Kingdom. He has promised me His peace. Finding Him in this mess has been an long journey leading to many new places that are uncomfortable and sometimes scary. But never has He left my side and never has He given up on me. This is a journey that is leading me closer to Him. And I believe in the glorious freedom He has for me despite all of the lies that tried to chain me back.

~Lizzie

Testify

It has been on my heart of late the importance of our testimony. Everyone who is in Christ has one, we know our own stories like the back of our hands... and yet so often we hesitate to share the story of our salvation. Scripture implores us to share our faith. If we know nothing else, no scripture, no verses, no words of wisdom... we still know our own Jesus right? Our testimony is our story- it's our own, personal love story with the Creator. We don't need to be theologians to tell it. We don't need to have massive amounts of scripture memorized to throw at people. We need only the guts to open our mouths and tell it.

Our testimony is one of God's most potent weapons against the enemy. Wielded through the mouths of the ones who lived these salvations, our testimony cannot be stopped. Revelations 12:11 says the word of our testimony conquers Satan himself! It is such an easy yet mighty tool in our arsenal for the kingdom. And yet, still... we do not use it as much as we should. Why?

Shame.

How often, even those of us who are walking in freedom, grace, and mercy hesitate to share what God has done because of the shame that our past still holds over us. Satan just loves to keep us living in the past right? And if it's not shame for what we've done... it's shame for what we didn't do. Anyone out there feel like their testimony isn't worth sharing because it's just not juicy enough? It's not littered with drugs or affairs, abuse or porn... so it's just not worth sharing?

Satan'll take our closed mouths either way. He'll convince us our past is too dark to share or too light to share. I would ask you today, do you view your own testimony through the lens of shame or the lens of victory? What's keeping your mouth shut?

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time eternal. And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher.For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." 2 Timothy 1:6-12 ESV

We have to open our mouths dear ones! We have to share the salvation of Christ in our lives! We don't need a degree, we don't need a long story, we don't need to be saved x-number of months, we don't need to be a speaker, we don't need a juicy story. All we need is to tell what Jesus has done for us. Good, bad, or ugly. Like the woman at the well. Having been saved a hot-minute, she spoke the only testimony she had, which was a whopping eight words. That's it!

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" John 4: 39-42 ESV

Our testimony is God's tool to use through us. All it needs to do is point people back to Him. He'll take care of the rest. So let us walk unashamed in the salvation He's provided and proclaim it from the rooftops. Whether it's X-rated or a very mild G, all are important, all need spoken... there IS someone who needs to hear yours today. Be brave, be bold, and speak up! Testify!

If you haven't read mine, please do here. I'd you to hear my story and learn about my Jesus!