Guilt and shame. Two of the heaviest emotions that we can carry around with us.
And the variations of guilt and shame are endless.
There’s the oh so suffocating “mom guilt” that so many of us mamas carry around on a daily basis. Maybe you are familiar with this kind of guilt. Maybe you are feeling it now.
Then there’s the shame in what we may have done in our past that can often haunt and weigh us down like a 500 pound invisible coat.
Dragging this coat around slowly but surely drains us of our happiness and changes us to weary and shattered human beings.
I remember a time in my life that my choice making skills weren’t ones that positively affected my life. I’ve done things that I’m not proud of.
Long ago, in my college days, I was invited to a frat party. It was my Junior year and to be honest I don’t have a ton of memories of this year because my focus was to have fun, not to make good grades.
I was invited to a party that only the cool people got invited to and I felt like I couldn’t say no. A few not so admirable “girlfriends” and I arrived at this party excited to be accepted by the “in crowd”.
What happened at this party still gives me chills and makes me so sad for my 22 year old self. I’ve cried for her many times.
The girls I was with and myself were offered mixed drinks.
Oh, how trusting we were.
Oh, how I wish I could go back and shake us violently and ask us why we would accept open drinks from strange college boys?
Sorrowfully, I am here to tell you today that this night was one that changed me.
It changed me from being a naïve college student to a very untrusting and skeptical young lady.
If I didn’t know there were monsters in the world before that night, I sure knew they existed after I left that life altering party.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, but my friends and I were taken advantage of that night. We were treated as if we didn’t matter. We were used in a way that I can only describe as when someone rips off a paper towel, harshly scrapes off the gunk from their hands then tosses in into the trash never to be seen again.
But that’s just it… WE AREN’T TRASH!
Let me say it again for the people in the back…YOU ARE NOT TRASH!
No matter what you have been through.
No matter what you have done.
No matter what circumstance you think you are responsible for.
That was a very dark time in my life. And I didn’t think I could forgive myself for making the mistake of going to that party. In fact, I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror because I felt so perpetually small.
I spent years feeling guilty and pushing down the shame that cloaked me when I got still enough to think of that night.
But, I’m here today to tell you that things did get better. Time marched on and life changed and life improved.
I’m not saying it happened over night. There would be some serious therapy and soul searching that would need to happen in order to heal from this horrid tragedy.
Friends, it was not easy.
To keep it real and raw with you, it was painful.
And it didn’t happen right away. It would be years after college in a somber moment in therapy that I would even admit to myself what actually happened that night.
But I did it. I was able to heal and move on. I did slowly go through a process that supported getting rid of the guilt and shame I felt.
If you are walking through emotions of guilt and shame of any capacity, then my heart goes out to you. I understand feeling completely destroyed right down to the core of your soul. I know how it feels to not want to move forward with your life. But I promise it does get better. And I can also promise it will take time.
It is so true that whatever doesn’t kill you, will truly make you stronger and fiercer!
Sisters, it is important to know, it’s not about being physically strong. It has everything to do with being mentally sturdy and emotionally determined.
I’m a strong believer that a spiritual awareness CAN come from experiencing a magnitude of pain. That cloak of guilt and shame I talked about earlier is what can lead to a great amount of compassion, progress, maturity, and of course, forgiveness.
Before I get into ways you rid your life of guilt and shame let me break down these two different yet similar feelings.
Guilt is how you feel about a behavior and shame is how you feel about yourself.
So, guilt looks like this: I feel guilty about lying to my friend. And shame looks like this: I am a bad person for lying to my friend.
Here are 3 steps to help rid your life of guilt and shame:
Step 1: Lay it all down.
For me, it wasn’t until I laid all of my burdens at the foot of the cross that I felt a relief so grand, it took my breath away.
Jesus WANTS our burdens! He wants the glory from our healing and our restoration! Never forget that.
He does not put us through these circumstances, but when we get healing from the one true source (HIM) in order to heal from these mistakes, He takes great pride in knowing we cannot do it on our own.
The moment I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to survive carrying around the shame of my past was the moment I gave it all to Him. That was the true start of overcoming this tragedy!
Step 2: Forgive yourself.
After you’ve set your past mistakes/ daily mistakes at the foot of the cross (aka asked for forgiveness) you’ve got to forgive yourself!
Speak it out loud, sis!
“I FORGIVE MYSELF!”
Shame cannot exist in the open. It thrives in secrecy. The simple act of speaking it out loud can eliminate that strong feeling of shame!
Maybe you are struggling with forgiving yourself because you don’t “feel” worthy.
Well, LISTEN UP! Forgiveness isn’t a feeling! It’s a choice!
I chose to say that I forgave myself out loud! I even wrote it on a piece of paper and crumpled it up and tossed it into the garbage can!
Choose today to forgive yourself and speak it into existence. It may not happen overnight, but consistently telling yourself you’ve forgiven yourself will help you get rid of the shame and guilt.
Step 3: Bundle Gratitude.
By bundling your gratitude, you saturate and overwhelm the guilt and shame from your mind!
One of the best ways I’ve been able to overcome shame and guilt is by shifting my focus away from constantly picking apart what I did and how I felt about it.
Instead I started listing all of the things I’m proud of myself about.
Examples of bundling your gratitude:
- Journaling the things you’re grateful for
- Thinking about all of the things that bring you joy
- Meditating on your successes
Step 4: Support others.
One way to overcome massive mistakes in your life, is to seek opportunities to help others.
If you feel that you are ready, you can share your story. You don’t need to make a grand post on social media or anything…but you can share with a friend.
Ya see, when we share about our shame and guilt it not only pulls the shame and guilt out of the shadows it’s using to grow and suffocate you, but it also inspires and empowers others to put their own shame to rest!
Never Forget that Jesus can always use our mistakes for His good.
Romans 8:28 says
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I’ve shared this story a handful of times and each time, God has been able to help another fellow sister make a shift in her relationship with herself and with Jesus.
Maybe you have your own coat of shame. One that has been eating away at you. One that is so unbearably heavy you feel like you may die if it doesn’t come off soon.
Sister, take the damn thing off. Here’s your permission, your invitation to shed something that has been making you weary for so long it feels like a part of your skin now.
I’m here to tell you that Jesus RECKLESSLY loves you.
He has NEVER left you!
He has pursued you and has brought you to this moment!
If you feel a tug at your heart, that’s Him! Give him your burdens! Lay it down…then get to work!
It might take some time. It might be painful! It might make you cry so hard and so long you may fill up 30 mason jars with those tears.
But know that those are the tears that will restore your soul! Jesus will use those jars to renovate your heart and give you the healing you so desperately want and need!
Today is the day sister! Sit with Him, cry and let it go!
If you need prayer, leave it in the comments or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)! I would love to pray with you on your journey to healing and restoration! With Him ALL things ARE possible!