For most of us, shame is a constant feeling in the back of our minds.
I recently made a post on my instagram about feeling the dreaded “mom guilt” and many women jumped in the comments to echo my feelings.
“Mom-guilt is real!” was a common theme of response.
And it truly is. I think, as moms, we feel guilt and shame deeply and often, both for standards of our own invention and ones that others have placed on us. As Christians, it’s no different.
We feel guilt and shame for not doing enough, doing too much, looking too perfect, not looking perfect enough, and the list goes on. After reflecting on this, I decided to dive into the concept of shame in the Bible and see what I could find. Immediately, my thoughts raced back to where it all began, Adam and Eve.
“6 When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.
7 Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.
8 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.”
(Genesis 3:6-8, MSG)
Shame has been around since the very beginning, and it all started because Eve thought she could know it all.
I sometimes like to think of what happened to Adam and Eve as a metaphor for the process of growing up. Once we lose that childlike innocence, that willingness to run around in the garden naked, we don’t get to go back. Once we learn “the ways of the world”, our world shifts. And everything changes. Shame creeps in. And when shame creeps in, our first tendency is to hide.
I don’t remember the first time I started feeling shame for the way I looked, but I know that by middle school age, I was hyper-aware of how my shorts made my legs look. I picked at hems, yanked my shorts down to cover another centimeter of thigh, fidgeted with the sleeves on everything I wore. It had to be just right, or I was going to be extremely self-conscious. Not that any of it did much anyway – I still overanalyzed every lingering stare, every comment, every glance my way.
My shame of my body image evolved into mom guilt as I got older. Did I really know what I was doing? Am I really capable of taking care of this baby? Am I making the right decision to stop breastfeeding? Am I being selfish? Do I check on him enough? Give him enough tummy time? Play with him enough? Do I give him too much screen time? The guilt and shame of not “mom-ing” well enough began to literally keep me up at night. And to tell you I’ve tackled this new form of shame in my life would be a total lie.
But what I am realizing is that none of this is new.
In fact, it’s as old as Eve herself. The very presence of sin and shortfall in this world means we have to tackle the ugly beast of shame with every new step in life. Eve thought by eating the fruit, she was going to know-it-all. Well boy did she! Her eyes were certainly opened and she realized just how naked she really was. And isn’t it just the same with us? We take new steps in life, grow up, learn more, get smarter, but with each new decision and each new growth, shame learns a new tactic to get at us at our very core. If I’m being honest with myself, I can name a few huge areas of my being that cause me shame, guilt, and literally keep me up at night.
I bet you could name a few too. Some probably started early on for you and others grew up right along with you, coming on in new shapes and forms as you got older.
Lucky for us, the Bible gives us the perfect anecdote for situations just like this:
“16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
(2 Corinthians 3:16-18, NIV)
When we fix our eyes and minds on the Lord, there is freedom. Freedom from shame. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from all the inadequacies and other things that keep us up at night.
If we think about it, it makes perfect sense. Shame and the freedom of God’s love are polar opposites.
And if we can train our brains to think on the opposite of all those ugly things that weigh us down, we can be free.
Adam and Eve’s first response was to hide when they realized their shame, and it’s often the same with us. But, when we stop hiding and find the courage to bring our shame and guilt straight to the feet of Jesus, there is freedom.
If shame and guilt are a constant battle for you just like they are for me, together let’s start taking a new path. It will be like forging a new trail at first, but with each day it will get easier for us. We have to train our brains to think on the opposite, to go a new direction. Hiding in darkness isn’t an option for people like us – we have light and freedom just a few steps away.
When Adam and Eve stopped hiding from God, all their troubles didn’t disappear. But, just as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, when we turn to the Lord, there is freedom. Adam and Eve, as far as we know, didn’t live in shame and guilt for the rest of their lives. They went on to be pretty fruitful!
With us, it doesn’t have to be any different. Shame and guilt can take hold like a stubborn weed and cripple us into hiding, but when we turn to the Lord and give it over to Him, we start training our brains to think the opposite way. Then, if we practice that new path of positive thinking, prayer, and releasing our guilt, it will become the easier path to take after all.
With Great Joy,
“When we fix our eyes and minds on the Lord, there is freedom. Freedom from shame. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from all the inadequacies and other things that keep us up at night.”
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