Four Areas Where I Have Battled Shame
by Steve Backlund
Shame is "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety," (Miriam-Webster Dictionary). We have all experienced it in some way, though many of us fail to acknowledge or even recognize this negative emotion we're feeling. Many of us wrongly believe feelings of shame we are experiencing are truths about our identity rather than negative emotions resulting from believing lies. Shame begins to lose its foothold in our lives as we establish beliefs about our identity based on who God says we are, and as we begin to authentically bring that shame to the light.
Whenever I thought of shame, I tended to focus on major wrong things we did that caused guilt. And even though this is a part of shame's attacks, it is not the most common way most experience this emotion. Let me illustrate this by listing four areas where I have had to battle shame. They certainly are not the only areas, but it will give you an idea of what I am talking about:
- Shame Concerning My Appearance – This was especially true in my life when I was a child and teenager. I felt I was too white (I never tanned well). I blushed frequently which was very embarrassing, I was rather skinny, and I thought I was not that impressive-looking when I took my shirt off (ha ha).
- Shame Concerning My Level of Education – I did not graduate from university (a story I may share someday). I felt shame in sharing this with those who had graduated.
- Shame Concerning the Possessions I Owned – Whether it was my car, my clothes, my house, or something else, I would often struggle emotionally when people saw where I was at in life. I would think, "I should be farther along in being 'successful,' but I am not!"
- Shame for Mistakes I Have Made – These include poor financial decisions, relationships problems I caused, and just plain embarrassing things I have done.
I am sure you can relate to these. We all will experience some or all of these to some level.
What I have found is this: when we talk about our feelings of shame, it starts freeing us to overcome its hold on us. When we understand that we all battle shame in some form or another, it gives us compassion for others, and for ourselves. Authenticity and vulnerability are two big antidotes to defeat shame!
I highly recommend Brene Brown's material regarding shame, especially her book The Gifts of Imperfections.
For more on my own thoughts regarding shame, listen to my podcast episode below:
ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.