Walk Out of Shame: Nothing to Hide

Standing underneath Ring Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Several weeks ago, I talked about how Jesus paid for our shame in full when He died on the cross.  How we as believers think of our sin as paid for, yet we sometimes forget that Christ also paid for and delivered us from the power of shame in our lives.

Views from 12 O’clock Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Shame is born out of knowing fully how wrong, foolish, or sinful we’ve been.  It then turns into fear of humiliation: “What will everyone think of me when they know that I’m this sort of person, or that I’ve done this thing, or that I have this problem?”  Once the cycle of shame begins, it’s very difficult to break because we’ve taught ourselves to 1) make our sin, foolishness, or problems bigger than God’s redemptive power, and 2) be afraid of the very people who are around us who could help us overcome the issue.

Exploring between 20 Mule Team Canyon and Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Exploring between 20 Mule Team Canyon and Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

The people who I run across on social media tend to fall into two different camps.  Either they’re full of shame and they hide their true selves from the world (and especially the world of social media!) or else they’re full of shame and are pretending they’re not – in other words, they’re swearing and saying all kinds of crazy things because, “that’s who I am and that’s the real me.”  The truth is that it’s not the real them, in many cases; it’s just that they’re dealing with their shame with crude language and ugly displays of the sinfulness that is inside of them.  In other words, instead of letting the beauty inside of them be seen – the person God made them to be – they let the ugliness inside of them show forth to the world.  “Come be like us,” they say.  “We are free.  We can be ourselves and not hide.”

Wildflowers along the Genesee Valley Greenway, New York
Wildflowers along the Genesee Valley Greenway, New York

I’m honestly not sure which is worse (hiding in shame or displaying your shame for all to see), but thankfully I don’t have to make a verdict on that.  Instead, I’d like to suggest a few ways that you can walk out of the shame that you have experienced due to things that have happened to you or from you in life.

Wildhorse Window, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Wildhorse Window, San Rafael Swell, Utah
  1. Believe that God is bigger than your shame.  He’s already born your sins and failings; shame springs from the belief that your sin, mistake, etc. is bigger than what He can forgive.  He has already forgiven you.  (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 3:18)  Receive it!
  2. Allow yourself to be defined by what God says about you rather than by your sin.  When we accept shame, we’re effectively defining ourselves by our sin rather than by the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Train your mind to look at yourself the way God sees you – under the blood of Jesus and therefore no longer a sinner – rather than by the mistake you made at work last week or the sin that has been knocking on your door since you were 15.
  3. Confess your sins.  This is firstly and foremostly to Jesus (1 John 1:9); it may be helpful to also have a trusted friend or family member to whom you can confess.  (If you’ve sinned against someone, specifically, you should confess your guilt to them and ask forgiveness.)  The very act of coming clean breaks the power of the shame of hidden sin.  (That all being said, you don’t need to go around confessing your sin all the time – if you’ve dealt with it with whoever you need to and you’ve dealt with it with Jesus, that should be enough.)
  4. Allow yourself to be transparent in a gracious way.  In other words, don’t hide for fear that people won’t like you.  Certainly, there are people who won’t like you!  It’s part of life (John 15:18).  The very act of living with nothing to hide is the fastest way I’ve seen to live a life that is void of shame.
Trona Pinnacles, California
Trona Pinnacles, California

I heard a true story once about a young man who was struggling with sin.  He finally admitted it to his father, who both encouraged him to hold fast to Christ and also helped him try to walk away from the issue.  But what broke the addiction wasn’t a twelve-step program – it was breaking the power of the shame over the sin.  When he finally came clean to his family about the problem, and his family responded with support and encouragement to do what was right and holy, the shame was broken (he could now live with nothing to hide), and with the broken shame also came the breaking of the sin over his heart and mind.

Waterfalls on Panther Creek, Adirondack Park, New York
Waterfalls on Panther Creek, Adirondack Park, New York

Freedom from shame comes with the power of the cross; it also comes from living out that power to be free from sin.  I hope the four steps above help you overcome shame – either from recent issues or from a lifetime of guilt – and that you can walk a transparent, holy life with your eyes fixed not on the shame but on the One who took that shame from you.