“Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth…” Isaiah 54:4
“Shame on You!”
Most of us have heard this phrase as misbehaving children. Shame – the word is defined as follows:
“a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong, embarrassment, dishonor or disgrace”
Of, if it were just a word. Unfortunately, however, shame is not in word only. It follows us as a self-destructive and painful driving force concerning our addictions. And most of us, in this arena, have engaged in actions in which we berate ourselves with “Shame on you!”
I certainly did. As one recovery from all things eating disorder, back in the day, I was a raging bulimic who stole her roommates/ foo and ate out of dumpsters. I talk about it in my book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death Of An Eating Disorder.”
“…Suddenly, taking out the trash became my favorite chore. I’d gather and dispose of anything and everything that could tempt me, and I’d dump it in the trash. I couldn’t have it, any of it, around me. This included my roommates’ food as well… I knew they would confront me, but my desperate compulsion to ‘get rid of the food’ took over. Hurry! Hurry! Before it’s too late. Get rid of it now! I’d be first to volunteer among my roommates to take out the trash, because I knew what ‘goodies’ I’d thrown out…
…Trips to the dumpster at 2:30 a.m. were not unusual. I’d usually make up some excuse to go out (I need to check the mail at 11:45 p.m.). Where was that ice cream I threw out? Where were those cookies? If I couldn’t find my stuff, I’d rummage through other people’s trash bags…
I was caught on more than one occasion. I’d try to play it off, pretending everything was normal as people passed by me scrounging… I began going to the dumpster frequently in broad daylight while other students were coming and going from class… I tried to convince myself I could ‘just act natural’ and disguise the truth. I tried to act like I was rearranging the garbage in the dumpster to make room for the trash I’d just taken out… Sometimes I tried the ‘oops, I dropped something in the garbage, and I must fish it out.’ I had dropped something all right: my guard, my dignity…
…Shame was one thing when I was by myself… I couldn’t hide any longer from others what I was doing, who I was becoming. It was obvious, and people were noticing now…”
“We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.” Jeremiah 3:25
Thanks so much, Jeremiah.
But there is a way out: God. It’s not merely a spiritual issue; it’s also practical. In fact, it can even have steps. You know, the twelve steps?
We admitted we were powerless over a substance or behavior – our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Indeed, scripture tells us God has only so long of a leash for us to run fast and loose, before we’re mercifully stopped from further self-harm.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
We’re protected and stopped, often times, in spite of ourselves. And no, it doesn’t always feel like we’re extremely loved, favored and protected by an incredible God at that time. Nevertheless, we are kept, disciplined and helped, even when we’re at our most despicable.
It’s because, despite our feelings and life evidence to support this inherent truth, we are of great worth.
“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4
“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7
That’s often a difficult feeling to come by as, in the throes of our addictions and poor choices, we are often doing compromising, vile and yes, shameful things. It’s challenging to feel precious and valuable if we’re in the middle of degradation.
But’s it’s often in these circumstances, God is working overtime to help, heal and restore us.
“‘For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds,’ saith the LORD…” Jeremiah 30:17
“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?
I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
But each of us needs to confront the shame of what we have done and release it. It is not God Who is saying, “Shame on you.” It is us, instead.
Therefore, it’s up to each one of us to replace that paralyzing sentiment with something God is actually a part of. Things like…
“I am forgiven.”
“I am recovering.”
“I am worthwhile.”
These statements will help us far more than demoralizing shame.
God is not intimidated or overwhelmed by anything concerning us, shame issues included.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
It’s time we not be intimidated or overwhelmed either.