Reframing Shame

This article was written by Irene Rollins and published by Jesus Calling


Admitting our weakness is often a difficult task for most of us, because calling our imperfections, failures, hang-ups, and habits what they are, is uncomfortable. And it often produces shame.

Shame and self-esteem

Shame is a powerful emotion that is inward and, when not dealt with appropriately, deadly to our self-esteem and connection with God and others. The accuser of our souls is out to steal, kill, and destroy, and we can easily find ourselves believing the lies he plants in our minds: that we are not good enough; that we are broken beyond repair.

The enemy attacks us this way because it is a direct attack on our identity in Christ. When shame leads us to stop believing what Jesus says about us, we distance ourselves from God and others. When they were disobedient in the garden, Adam and Eve felt shame and hid from God. Shame causes us to hide, and with that, we isolate ourselves, pretending and performing our way through life. We don’t allow our real selves to be seen, and so we live a kind of life that isn’t true to ourselves or God’s design for us. And it’s exhausting trying to be someone you were not created to be.

A heavy burden

Carrying the heavy weight of shame through life was never God’s intent. He wants us to bring our burdens to Him and unpack our shame with Him, rather than keeping it a secret and living burdened under the weight of it all.

I know first-hand how shame can become toxic and debilitating. As a pastor, wife, and mother, I struggled with the shame of a secret addiction to alcohol. Admitting my alcoholism was extremely difficult for me, because acknowledging it felt like I was confirming the negative ways I thought about myself: I was bad for having this struggle, I was unforgivable, and I was fundamentally flawed. But it wasn’t until I embraced my weakness of being powerless over alcohol that I began to experience victory.

Working through shame

When I willingly faced the shame of my struggle, God turned it around for good. Working through my shame allowed me to truly embrace the truth that addiction didn’t make me bad, and that God didn’t change His mind about me because of sin (Romans 11:29). As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s power is perfected in our weaknesses, and as we learn to be honest about our struggles, we can experience greater levels of grace in our lives.

When I share my testimony, it brings glory to God and brags on the redeeming power of Christ at work in me. Through my recovery process, Jesus has reframed the shame of my alcoholism, and I no longer see myself as a failure. I am a grateful believer who is overcoming addiction to alcohol and helping others experience freedom from shame.

The formula

The formula to conquer shame is to recognize our weakness, ask God for forgiveness, and confess our struggle to others so that we can be healed. Shame loses its power when we speak truth and remind the enemy that we are forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ!

Through Jesus, we have the power and wonderful opportunity to change the lens through which we view shameful experiences in our lives. When we reframe the shame of our history and our weaknesses, we are empowered to have them work for us rather than against us. The testimony God writes through this reframing can help set others free.

Never too late

It is never too late to change the trajectory of our lives and the outcome of our stories. The mistakes we see as failures can be reframed, and we can learn to see them as opportunities for growth and development. Failure occurs when we don’t learn from our mistakes and instead allow them to define or defeat us.

Don’t let shame have the last word! Take back your power in Christ and do the work to get free. When we look to Jesus for help, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, with the help of pastors, counselors, and Christ-centered, 12-step programs like Celebrate Recovery, we can form disciplines and pave new pathways of thinking to replace the negativity of shame. We can experience a freedom we never knew was possible.

Just remember: being willing to admit your weakness is the first step. Freedom is on the other side of surrender. May the Lord bless you as you journey to reframe the shame that has held you back!

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