Author: Sarah DeLotelle
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves – Genesis 3:7
I want you to think back to a dark time in your life…a time called middle school…braces, acne, a regretful perm or two…or eight (the evidence of which I’ve burned). Middle school is not kind to many and I was no exception. I’m what you would call a late bloomer. While everyone one else was blooming in the spring, I bloomed in the fall…I guess I’m a bit of a pumpkin (any other pumpkins out there? We’re kind of a big deal at Starbucks this time of year). On top of being a late bloomer, I’m also dyslexic. Because of these and other things, I picked up shame at a pretty young age. Shame’s voice seemed most convincing the summer of my 6th grade year. That July I attended a church camp with my Jr. high youth group. The girls in my grade wore makeup and knew exactly how to dress, boys liked them and they seemed light years ahead of me. I knew I didn’t measure up and I encountered paralyzing insecurity for one of the first times in my life. I joined the camp news paper club and was given the opportunity to write a piece for the paper. I had always dreamed of being a writer and I brimmed with pride as I turned in my kicker of a story. The woman in charge did not share my feelings, she acted shocked and somewhat insulted by all of my grammar and spelling mistakes. She then questioned where I went to school, pointed out my errors in front of the team, and proceeded to print my flawed article without a single edit. I was mortified. I spent the last day of camp hiding in my bunk, choking back tears, kicking myself for believing that I could be a writer. I didn’t realize it then, but I had come into agreement with the voice of shame. Due to my appearance and abilities, I began to doubt that I was worthy…worthy of love…worthy of relationships…worthy of acceptance. As I drove home from camp, I vowed that I would hide my weaknesses from then on, after all, people can’t reject what they can’t see.
Shame is the fear of being unworthy, and the product of shame is hiding. We see this from the very beginning, in Genesis Adam and Eve disobey God, they feel shame, and they immediately go into hiding. They hide from God, but they also hide from one another using fig leaves. The product of shame is hiding and therefore isolation. When we walk in shame, the fear being unworthy causes us to build protective walls around ourselves, but in turn, those walls become like the walls of a prison; shutting us off from true connection with God and the world around us. If our greatest need and desire is to be seen, known, and loved, then shame causes us to closes ourselves off from those things, because we don’t believe that we are worthy of them. Shame says, “because you’re not perfect, you have no place at the table – the Lord’s table or anyone else’s – so don’t show up, or don’t show up as you truly are.” Shame whispers that if you were truly seen and truly known then you surely would not be loved…so hide.
Shame coerces us to hide, but people’s fig leaves look different. Some people hide behind a mask of perfectionism, striving, and trying to be the person they think that everyone wants them to be. They ultimately believe that this will protect them from rejection. Others hide by literally never trying, because what’s the point if rejection is imminent? Why try to make friends, or go for the promotion, or put myself out there if I’m not what people are looking for… I just won’t show up. This is their way of protecting themselves from rejection. Apathy and perfectionism can both be ways we hide because of shame.
How do we come out of hiding?
1. Many of us come into agreement with shame at a young age. Maybe you’ve picked up shame over the words that have been said to you (you’re really tall, you’re not book smart, you’re not the pretty sister), or the words that have never been said to you ( I love you, I’m proud of you, you look lovely). Perhaps you’ve picked up shame over the things that have happened ( abuse, mistakes, rejection), or the things that have never happened (Being romantically pursued, receiving recognition for your work, making the team). It’s entirely possible to pick up shame in elementary, middle, or high school and to live out of that shame for the rest of your life. You can slip into your thirties, forties, or fifties still doubting that you are beautiful, capable, or enough. When did shame first whisper these lies in your ear? Sit with the Holy Spirit today and ask him to retrace your steps. What were the words, moments, or experiences that caused you to pick up shame?
2. We often think that light and exposure will worsen our shame, but shame is bred in darkness and secrecy. How do you combat shame head on? Expose it! This doesn’t always mean sharing the source of your shame with the world, although at some point it might. For me it’s meant being honest with myself, the Lord, my husband, my mentors, a few close friends, at times a counselor, and even with y’all today
3. If shame is the fear of being unworthy, then the antidote to shame is an encounter with the perfect love of the Father. 1 John 4:18 tells us that, “ Perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his (God’s) perfect love.” If shame is the fear of being unworthy/ the fear of being punished by rejection, then shame is remedied by a steady diet of the Father’s perfect love. Feast on the Lord’s enamored thoughts towards you today: relish them, savor their sweetness, lick up every crumb! Make room in your day to consume the love of the Lord in the same way that you prioritize your meals. Don’t nourish your body and starve your heart!
You are worthy of love, connection, and relationship, not because of who you wish you were, or because of the image that you try to project, but because of who you actually are. You are a co-heir with Christ, the head and not the tail, the crown of creation, strong, capable, more than a conqueror, all together lovely, set apart, and the apple of your Father’s eye. You my friend are worthy!