Where it all begins
One of the most beautiful passages of scripture is that of John 3:18-21. Jesus is conversing with Nicodemus. In this conversation, we are intimately taught that Christ is the light that has come into the world. Yet, many of us rather remain in the darkness, avoiding the light. Because we remain in our own darkness means we do not want to become aware of our own weakness and frailty. Our personal vulnerabilities are revealed. Insecurities, fears, and the many toxic trauma we’ve lived with are now exposed. The light becomes our own awareness of how sick we are. The light reveals to us the deep and entrenched shame and guilt of who we have come to believe we are.
Personal condemnation comes from deep rooted shame and guilt
In his post at The Elephant Journal, David Baumrind writes:
Shame is hard to talk about because while we know how it feels, we aren’t always sure what it is. Simply put, shame is the intensely painful feeling that there is something profoundly and deeply wrong with us. We want to hide ourselves away, afraid that what’s inside is so ugly we don’t dare show it to the world.
As Christian believers, I believe this is really true. What is also true is that those who do not share in the struggle of deep rooted shame and guilt are afraid to come into the light of understanding because of their own inherent fears.
Struggling with shame and guilt is no easy task. It is also a two-edged sword. On the one hand, we do not want to expose ourselves to the reality of how deeply these wounds are. Yet, on the other hand, we desire genuine freedom from the very wounds of our personal trauma that has produced deeply held sense of shame and guilt.
Baumrind continues his thoughts:
We’re pulled into a shame spiral when our deepest shame is triggered. Our fight-or-flight response activates, causing a physical as well as an emotional response to our trigger. Our thoughts swirl faster than we can process as we begin to spin story after story supporting our worst fears. Never mind that the stories we tell are not rooted in reality—the pain we experience is real and traumatic.
Our very own response is to lash out through anger. It causes us to withdraw from any social activities, impacts our ability to manage and maintain healthy relationships with others. That inner critic continually engages in critical, judgmental, and condemning thoughts we believe and adopt as a sense of reality and truth.
Baumrind is also correct in that shame is the core reason for our own suffering. And, it is because of this suffering, many gravitate toward substance use, unhealthy and impulsive eating habits, and potential unhealthy and impulsive risky behaviors.
Much of the shame and guilt we experience comes from toxic and dysfunctional upbringing. In fact, one of the symptoms associated with Borderline Personality Disorder has to do with childhood trauma. This may include bullying within the organic family unit – as well as schoolyard bullying.
Overcoming condemnation moves us into the Light and Love of Christ
If you are wondering as to the reason I stated that John 3:18-21 is a beautiful passage of scripture: It is because we come to understand that the previous verses shares this insight –
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Who did Christ come to save? And, in what capacity are we brought into the light? The Gospel of Luke 4:18 provides us this answer:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
In order for the healing process to occur, we need to recognize how we are condemning ourselves. And, once we overcome the condemnation that perpetuates our petulant shame and guilt, we move into the light and love of God so that we are able to be set free and experience the healing process that is needed.
Healing from shame and guilt takes work
It is one thing to finally overcome our own self-indulgent condemnation. It is another to give ourselves permission to step into the light and love of God. Yet, it is totally different to realize that healing begins with us taking the necessary steps to work on moving further away from the toxic shame and guilt.
Awareness is the first step in the healing process. Becoming aware of our own self-grandiose condemnation and self-perceptive sense of worthlessness is where we start. What also comes to light is the very thoughts and emotions underlying our own flogging.
In every instance of scripture that we read about Christ healing someone, there is the required action taken on their part. The invalid is called to take up his bed and walk. The lame is asked to stretch forth his arm. The Roman Soldier with a sick and dying family member asks for Christ to speak and it will be so. The light only exposes us to the reality of truth. However, through Christ, and our own faith in Him, we are empowered to work toward healing those deep wounds of our own shame and guilt.
Baumrind states it this way:
But regardless of where it came from or whose fault it was, it’s our responsibility to heal ourselves. Like so many things, the amount of healing we do is proportional to the amount of effort we put into it. The work will look different for everyone—it might be therapy, group meetings, or whatever works for us.
The work we do, through our faith in Jesus Christ, is manifested at the level of our commitment and desire to move further into the light and love of Christ’s revealing and liberating grace.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Roman Christians, expresses his thoughts in this manner:
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
The nature of sin, in the context of the Biblical worldview, merely means hamartia and refers to the idea of missing the mark.
Because we have come into the Light, and through faith in Christ, we endeavor to shed ourselves of the former perceptions of self in order to be established as a whole new person. This is the ongoing work of any Christian believer. More so, those of us who were brought up in homes where there were toxic and family dysfunctions, we have greater work and healing. Especially when it comes to distancing ourselves from the toxic shame and guilt we have carried with us from childhood.
It requires great work and mourning the loss of our former self. It also requires greater work to begin anew and restoring a whole new sense of self. All of this, through our faith and deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.
Are you struggling with shame and guilt that prevents you from living a life that is liberating, genuine, and spiritually rewarding?
Understand and know that it takes great courage, a step of faith, to bring ourselves into the light. It also takes great courage and resolve to commit ourselves toward working on overcoming our own insecurities, doubts, fears, and condemnation in order to put to death our old self. Yet, the reward is a new life where we experience liberty and freedom from the captivity of our own shame and guilt.
Share your thoughts on how you are struggling with shame and guilt in your life.
Check out How to Release the False Story of Shame
Also, check out How to Heal From Feelings of Guilt and Shame