What has cured my shame more than anything? Bringing it out into the open. I remember a time when I was in hiding. My insecurities, my deepest regrets, my biggest failures were all locked in a vault of shame inside of me. It required tremendous energy to keep it down and for me to “look good” on the outside. The older you get and the more that accumulates, the harder it is to hold down and it begins to evidence itself! Anything or anyone that neared the door of that vault got growled at, cut off from, judged, attacked, or otherwise backed off. Can anyone relate?
I remember once when I painfully revealed one of my failures to a friend. I feared the worst. She would never speak to me again. She was a Christian, which in my naïve world at the time, meant that I would be judged harshly and probably avoided once my ‘sin’ was revealed. She surprised me. She embraced me, comforted me, and loved me just the same. How strange. My vulnerability brought me love, not harsh judgment! And that is exactly how it works with shame! Keeping our secrets, failures, insecurities, regrets, etc. in hiding actually breeds more shame. What’s stored in us steadily grows like a cancer, and all the while, we are adding new things to our stores as we are flawed human beings incapable of perfection!
Bringing our truth out into the open, however, is how we rid ourselves of shame and enjoy freedom! Oh, you will no doubt meet with some scrutiny, but that is exactly how you heal from shame! By facing those who judge you, you learn to rise above the shame. As you humble yourselves before others, and hoping for acceptance, you actually learn to accept yourself!
Now for those of you saying, “But you don’t know what I’ve done!” I feel for you. It is so very hard to believe from your side of the fence that bringing your garbage out into the open is the path to feeling better about it. And I would definitely agree with you that secrecy is better, if I hadn’t experienced it for myself! You have no idea how much of a burden you are under keeping that shame locked inside of you. You will not know until you open the door and release it. The relief that you will feel is tremendous!
The first step is finding someone that you trust who will not judge you. This may be a dear friend, mentor, sponsor, or counselor (make sure you consider the impact sharing your secrets may have on them). List the things inside of you that you wish you could erase from your past. Then ask them if you can share it with them. It will be emotional, yes, but once it is outside of you, you will be surprised at how different you feel. Shame always makes our junk look and feels worse than it really is!
Next, consider where you were at in your life when you did whatever it is that is shameful to you. Were you a kid? A teenager? A young adult? A grown man or woman who knew better, but for some reason did it anyway? Once you figure that out, understand that you are not the same person as you were then and forgive yourself. Once you begin to have a little grace with yourself for past missteps and failures, it will get easier to forgive yourself for daily transgressions. And you will breathe a little easier every single day!