There was a book in the 1980’s that became very popular for attempting to understand human reaction to the stresses of life. That book, “Dinosaur Brains”, was based on the premise was human beings were just like the dinosaurs when responding to tense situations. They claimed we had 2 responses: either “fight or flight”. The “fight” reaction caused us to stand our ground, build up our defenses and begin to battle. “Flight” meant that we sensed that there was way too much danger and, instead of digging in for the battle, we ran away to seek safe ground. The author believed that this basic fight or flight mechanism was the strongest motivation for humans. I disagree!
I believe that there is a much stronger motivation in human beings that can bring out the worst in all of us. That motivation is the emotion called shame. Unlike the instantaneous reaction of fight or flight, shame is a quiet and insidious emotion that takes its toll over a lifetime as we think about and relive things that have caused us embarrassment in the past. However, shame does have a purpose. The fear of experiencing shame can sometimes keep us from doing the wrong things, like breaking the law or doing harm to another human being.
For many of us, shame is caused by carrying guilt about something that we have done in the past, or something that we continue to do. Perhaps our anger gets out of control from time to time and we say things we are embarrassed about or ashamed of later. Or, perhaps we enable other people to behave poorly because we are afraid to confront them and deal with what they may say or do to us. Another reason for shame is the inability to stop participating in a bad habit or break an addiction.
What makes shame an even more powerful force in our lives is that it is caused not only by what we have done, but also by what has been done to us by others. People sometimes do terrible things to others for their own amusement or to meet their own needs. This is simply wrong and there is no justification for it. The guilt and shame that this puts on the victim is a burden that can take a lifetime to overcome. If you have had something terrible happen to you at someone else’s hand and you are carrying the burden of shame because of it, please know that there is help out there for you. Lighthouse Network provides resources for those carrying the shame associated with past abuse or current addictions. In the Wildflowers, into My Arms, WITHIN REACH, and Edging Forward can all be found at our Lighthouse Store and can guide your path to freedom.
Today, as you reflect on what is holding you back from the life you could be leading, commit to let go of the guilt associated with past poor decisions, and strive to make better decisions day by day. If you carry the burden of what others have done to you, commit to seek help in that area of your life. In either situation, know that God loves you just the way you are and not the way you think you should be. He proved his love for us by sending his Son to take away the shame and guilt of sin in our lives by dying on the cross for us. Recovery is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m tired of carrying the burden of shame I feel each and every day. I know this is holding me back and I come to You to relieve my burden. Even though I know that You have made me in your image, and that You have called me your child, I confess that I don’t always believe that I am worthy of dignity or honor, or that I am cherished by You. I pray, dear Father, that You will touch my heart and allow me to sense Your amazing love for me. I pray that You will take this burden from me so that I might have life and live it abundantly, knowing that I am your cherished possession. I pray this in the name of the One who took my shame and gave me freedom, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”
And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at his coming.
1 John 2:28
KW: guilt, shame, decision-making, addictions, depression, abuse, trauma, relationships, adversity, emotions