On shame and being new

Selfish. 

There is a word in every person’s memory, deep in the recesses of childhood play or disaster that is set apart.  It is a brand, and the wound is very likely still searing hot and festering under the skin years later. 

For some reason, I thought I was selfish, or too much, or was told this by my someone around me. I don’t remember exactly where this came from, but I do remember it being a repeated theme throughout my childhood- repeated so frequently that I accepted it and hid the shame in my heart as Truth.  It was painful, so painful, and I didn’t want it to be true. And truth be told, I probably definitely was selfish! What child without the Holy Spirit isn’t? 

For so much of my life, I tried to pack that word away, push it to the side, and connect with others around me rather than think about the possibility of expressing my own wants or (God forbid!) needs, because those things were selfish in the fact that they drew attention to myself.  As an adult and as a writer, this has made life extremely difficult for me in being okay with defining my own goals (because they are mine) and in simply putting words on the page.  Are my words selfish?  Is the fact that I want to process my life and the world around me selfish? 

I think that’s why the way I view myself is so different than how other people see me.  Maybe we all do that.  (Do we??) Recently I was talking with a friend about being a type 4 on the enneagram and hating it because of the connotation of being moody.  Within two days, two friends told me they did not see that in me at all. 

Why is there such a disconnect between what I know to be true, what I feel to be true, and how I feel that others perceive me?  Because I am being run by the fear that they will perceive me as selfish.  This fear drives most of my actions, and in some cases can be good because it motivates me to serve and love those around me- however, it prevents others from truly knowing me because sometimes I am afraid to open up around them or share my life.  I am afraid they will see me as needy, weak, or self-absorbed. 

Looking over this whole page feels so very self-absorbed because it is all about me!!

But my hope is that we can rewrite this story. Whether someone told us, or we actually were branded as somehow too much or not enough- my hope is to recognize that word as a lie and recognize my response to it as a fear– fear that my identity is wrapped up in this one little word rather than all the other parts that make up who I am because the truest part of me is that I am a new creation in Christ. 

When Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about their motivations, he says this:

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him as thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:11.

Whether its a memory that comes to mind easily or one that skates around the outside edges of your mind- what is a word that you didn’t realize you have been living by? Giving the weight of your personhood to? 

“If I was not ___________, then I would be….” (free, successful, well-liked…this list goes on)

How does that word drive your actions, your interactions with others, or your hopes?

And where is the Gospel in this?

I’m convinced that these words- these hurts, these injuries- bring great suffering. I know this to be true and could never belittle someone’s experience.  I also know that through Jesus Christ, we are fully known and fully loved by GodI know that Christ died for the weight of my sin and wrongdoing, absorbed it all upon himself, and left it in the grave when he resurrected. 

I know that fear- of others perceptions or of my own brokenness- has no hold over me in comparison with the knowledge that regardless of lies or shame (that is NOT from God), I am fully and deeply loved by the God of the universe, who gave himself up for me

Paul continues and says,

“All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Knowing and internalizing this truth is the only thing that allows us to rid ourselves of past hurts, lies, and fears.  We have to identify the lie and identify our response to it and ask ourselves if we are responding out of fear or out of trust in Christ’s work. 

Are we viewing ourselves in the light of how our Father, who loves us and sent his Son to die for us, sees us? 

Do we believe the truth that whatever we used to be does not define us, but rather that we are a new creation in Christ?

Can we reconcile the truth about ourselves in order to bring glory to God and receive healing? 

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can.  There is so much to unpack- and when we begin it is always painful. But I think the start is to look for the lie, acknowledge the shame- and to ask the Father to be with us. To comfort us.  And to remind us of who we are in Him. 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” Colossians 3:12

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