How to Overcome Childhood Shame

Do you struggle with shame? Do you find it difficult to overcome shame? Read these suggestions for how to overcome childhood shame.

Do you struggle with shame? Do you find it difficult to overcome shame? Read these suggestions for overcoming childhood shame.

Shame has tried to silence me my entire life.

Ever since I was four years old, ever since a man named Jackie, shame’s gnarly fingers have gripped my soul, choked me with its hateful whispers.

I thought this was normal. I thought it was true. And until recently, I couldn’t separate shame from my person-hood.

On dark, lonely nights, shame was there. On cold days and warm summers and in crowds and by myself, shame has always been there. And no big surprise, shame was happy to bring his friends along, too: insecurity, fear, and inferiority.

 

Want to know what shame feels like?  Shame tells you something bad is wrong with you. You’re defective. You’ll never be worth anything. No one will listen. You don’t have anything valuable to contribute. Ever. You’ll never be enough. Sound familiar?

Together, shame and friends have worked to squelch my individuality, limit my creativity, mold me into a conformist, keep me silent and stagnant, and rob me of real intimacy.

Shame and friends have also driven me to thievery. Instead of receiving God’s good gifts… instead of trusting God’s intentions and waiting for His provisions… shame and his buds have driven me to go undercover, to sneak and steal, to take by illegitimate means things God is ready and willing to give had I simply asked.

Shame is not a friend.

Perhaps the most damaging thing shame does is lead us into idolatry. Because to get away from it, to escape its vicious voice, we looked for man’s approval.

I’ve done it. I’ve craved acceptance. I’ve performed and people pleased and I’ve told you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

Like Eve, I’ve tried to run and hide, covering myself with the leaves of performance and appearances instead of coming out in the open and letting God see me exposed and laid bare for what I am.

I’ve lived in hiding. Shamed.

You see, for a long time, I didn’t realize something amazing about shame: God provides a covering.

Right there in Genesis 3 it tells us. For the one who was once naked and UN-ashamed –but is now cowering in the corner– God seeks and calls us out of hiding. Because He has a covering. He has a solution for our shame. 

All over the Bible, the solution for shame is to clothe ourselves with the righteousness and beauty God provides.

 

 

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” Exodus 28:2

 

 

Romans 13:13-14 says it to us this way, “Let us live…not in discord and jealousy. Instead, let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” One translation says, “Clothe yourselves with Christ Jesus.”

You see, any time there is discord, jealousy, insecurity, comparison, shame, or condemnation in our hearts, it is a tell-tale sign that we need to clothe ourselves. Like Eve, we are naked and ashamed. We are in need of some garments of righteousness and salvation, for beauty and glory.

Most of us get dressed at least twice a day… once in the mornings and once at night, changing into pajamas. {Some of us get dressed more often than that!} It is the same with clothing ourselves with Christ. We need to come again and again to Christ, allowing our bare selves to be clothed in the provisions of Christ Jesus. He clothes us with forgiveness, redemption, purpose, grace, strength, dignity, wisdom, kindness, love, beauty, and so much more!

Shame lies. It tells you to avoid exposure at all costs. But God says no exposed, raw, laid -bare soul who runs to Him will ever be put to shame. Not the sinful woman. Not the outcast. Not the violated 4 year old with nowhere to turn.

God doesn’t dish shame, He removes it.

When we stand before Him naked and unclean… yes even vile… He does not cast us out but He touches us. He touches us!  In acceptance and mercy He reaches out and when He touches us, something incredible happens: His holiness removes our sin. Like Isaiah fell on his face before a Holy God, crying “Woe is me!” so our sin and the sins of others against us is indeed real and serious. Yet God Himself sees fit to touch us, cleanse our unholiness, and grant us a righteous covering.

He removes sin and silences shame.

The safest place for the sinful, shameful woman is to get bare before Jesus. In Him, you can overcome shame! Won’t you go to Him now?

Learn how to overcome childhood shame with God

 

Want to go deeper?

As women, we are prone to shame and insecurity. I believe this is one reason why we have so many records of Jesus encountering women in the gospels. Jesus came to show us the Father and give us visuals of how He relates to us and how He handles our shame.

If you are struggling with shame, I recommend a couple things. First, order Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch.This is by far the most comprehensive, biblically grounded book on shame I’ve ever read. Dr. Welch delivers the life giving truth of Christ in ways the shame-laden soul can hear. A must read.

Next, and more immediately, take 30 minutes and look up the following two encounters in Scripture. Visualize yourself as the woman in the story. Visualize Jesus’s face, His voice, His touch, His acceptance, His words to you. I’ve included some questions to help you.

The bleeding woman- Matthew 9:20-22
What was the shameful thing about this woman? What are the shameful things about you?
Why did this woman touch Jesus secretly? What are you trying to hide?
Why did Jesus call the woman and make her speak publically? Why do you think He didn’t allow her to have a quiet, private healing?

The Samaritan woman- John 4:1-42
Why was this woman drawing water in the middle of the day, alone? How has shame isolated you?
Jesus was not put off by this woman. How did Jesus communicate acceptance? Generosity?
What did Jesus know about this woman? What dark things does He know about you? What is He willing to give you?

Finally, here is Isaiah 61, as adapted by myself for myself as a shame-filled woman. May it bless you today.

{Jesus Speaking}:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor in spirit, the worthless, the passed over;

He has sent me to bind up the soul places shattered by shame, to pardon the sins of the guilty, to proclaim liberty and to open the prison to those bound by shame. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, not His condemnation, and the day of celebrating God’s triumph over our enemies.

He has sent me to comfort all who mourn; and not only that, to grant those who mourn certain gifts -a beautiful headdress instead of ashes -the oil of gladness instead of mourning -the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

These gifts are bestowed so that My daughters will be renamed. Instead of being called Unworthy, Defective, Not good Enough, they will be called Oaks of Righteousness, Pillars and Plantings of the Lord. For God is glorified in their transformation!

These daughters shall go on to build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; all the ruin of their past will they bring to new life. They will overcome the destruction and repair the brokenness, even that brokenness rooted in generations past.

You, daughter, will even go so far as to be called a holy woman of God and will be spoken of as a minister of the Lord God. It will be like this: Instead of your shame, you will have a double anointing. Instead of dishonor, you will rejoice in your lot. Therefore you will possess a double blessing and have everlasting joy.”

{My response}:
“I will begin singing even now unto God. I will praise Him from the depth of my soul… because He has clothed me in a robe of righteousness. He has dressed me in honor and dignity and purity and salvation. God is praised, for He brings righteousness to fruition and puts His glory on display for all to see.”

Amen and amen!

How to overcome childhood shame with God

 

 

 

 

 

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33 Comments

  1. THIS!!!! So good!

    THIS spoke into my heart so deeply!! “You see, any time there is discord, jealousy, insecurity, shame, or condemnation in our hearts, it is a tell-tale sign that we need to clothe ourselves. We are naked! We are in need of some garments of righteousness and salvation, for beauty and glory.” What a wonderful reminder. Thank you, AJ. Thank you.

  2. AJ, your story moves me. Your life and your response point me to Christ. I can’t wait to sit down today in a quiet moment to work my way through Isaiah 61 again. Thank you for valuing Christ so much that you are wiling to show us the struggles He brings you through so that He receives glory.

  3. It’s beautiful, Arabah, and full of truth. I especially like this line: “We need to come again and again to Christ, allowing our bare selves to be clothed in the provisions of Christ Jesus” and the adapted passage from Isaiah 61. Thank you for sharing your story. :)

  4. This is so powerful, Arabah. You speak SO much life and freedom here. Many, many women need this message to become trust for them. Thank you for stepping out and going to a place where you make yourself vulnerable for the sake of other being healed. I know through writing this you probably found it healing and liberating fo yourself. Love you, sweet one!

  5. Once again, my friend, your blog is exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord at that exact moment. Thank you for your openness and transparency and your willingness to minister for the Kingdom. I love you, Arabah! May God richly bless you and yours today. :)

  6. Wow! This was beautiful and really, just so solid in Scripture! I’ve really struggled alot with this issue of shame, feeling so like I was conquering, until I had to curl into myself and weep. But knowing that God’s grace is covering and fully sufficient has truly given me the strength to be joyful! Thank you for sharing this!!!!

  7. Ok now I feel like a repeater :-) But I’ll join with the others and say that it was really a blessing reading that article I can definitely relate to being the overlooked and tears fill my eyes as I read and even as I am typing this reply my heart has been touched and I will b rereading the article. God bless you AJ

  8. Arabah. This is a wonderful post and right on the mark for so many of us woman who carry on caring for others and sidelining our own needs because of our sense of unworthiness and shame we have carried, often for decades. The effects of shame have snuck up on me lately with discord at work entailing sick leave and a min-breakdown for me. I now have to go back and confront someone with my truth, rather than my people pleasing and false self. Its so hard because I know I will confront defensiveness and possibly cause deep personal injury to the other party, who I know will take my words personally no matter how I dress them, and who is a woman carrying so much shame and many wounds herself. I have to keep giving this to God and trust the journey to wholeness that he has me on. From next week I am receiving counselling for the first time and do feel God ministering to me, including through your blog. Thank you.

    1. Lisa, I’m praying for you as you work through this situation. It’s tough! I know the Lord has a good plan for you and emotional healing. He is with you as you walk this path. Hugs and love to you, sister.

  9. Such a timely post. Last week I wrote on shame as it has been forever apart of me, both because of being sinned against and the sinners I have committed.

    It is often so hard to get what you know is truth in your head to sink down to your heart and then live it out! To live truly be free and live without the constant companions of shame and condemnation is possible I absolutely know and yet it seems to be more of a journey than a once and done act.

    Recently I was brought to this passage of Zechariah 3:1-5 which says, Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.”

    I was reminded that it is Satan the accuses me before God. He is the one who would desire me to live in shame all of my life. But don’t you just love what The Lord says? It was Jesus who has chosen us. It is He who snatched us from the fire. And yes we were standing there in our filthy rags but He gave us new garments and has taken away our sins. And then this in verse 5 a clean turban to cover our head! Our minds can be washed free from shame!

    In many ways this changed the way I fight shame now that I realize that I do have an enemy that wants to keep me hiding and feeling shameful. He will constantly try to accuse me but I do have the power of Jesus words and I can rebuke Him in the name of Jesus. I am no longer condemned. Jesus has freed me. Amen! :-)

    (http://www.sharonbrobst.com/2015/10/when-shame-speaks.html)

    1. I love how the Bible teaches us that when Jesus went to the cross, He “despised the shame”. His death has dealt with our shame. It is finished! We can stand in the freedom of no more shame because of this.

  10. Thank you for this powerful word of truth and hope!
    I have been struggling with shame my whole life…some days are better than others!
    Today you have reaffirmed my calling and my desire to clothe myself in the truth of the Lord!
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR WILLINGNESS TO BE NAKED AND EXPOSED!!!

  11. Even your opening “precious one” struck me because my first thought was that there is nothing precious about me. I know shame all too well. It is the one emotion I feel the most besides depression. I cut to deal with my shame. I went over a month without cutting and did again yesterday. I have a hard time believing that it matters because I don’t believe I matter. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your struggle. I will read this again and again.

    1. Trudy, you are a dear sister and I wish I could hug you and let you know just how dear you are. Your path to healing and restoration will be bumpy… but please don’t give up. You don’t need to cut to deal my friend. Jesus was cut for you. He can show you how to take His perfection and find healing in HIS wounds. You need not wound yourself. I pray you find Him closer than ever before as you find freedom from shame. {{Hugs and love}} AJ

  12. This is so profound! As a woman who suffered abuse as a very young child , this speaks to my soul! I have experienced healing and restoration thanks to our almighty God! Your words illuminate the truths of why we do what we do , even when we know better! Bless you and may God continue to use you to break the bonds of crippling shame off of women !

  13. What a great and timely post, Arabah. Thanks so much for sharing. You might want to change the slight error, though, because it changes the context of the sentence to the opposite meaning.
    But God says no exposed, raw, laid -bare soul who runs to Him will ever be put to shame – should be never?
    Fantastic. Will be reading this post a few times because shame has been my companion for too long too, for similar reasons.
    thanks

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