Silence the Voice Shame

They said he would come after me and they were right. He was waiting outside as I hesitantly emerged from the high school girls’ locker room. I was relieved to see a group of people there. Someone was sure to step in if they saw a seventeen-year-old boy harming a fourteen-year-old girl.

It all started a few days earlier when I said something to a mutual “friend” about a young man’s looks. It was a naïve, but derogatory, comment that my “friend” reported to him. I heard that he was going to confront me about it and put me in my place.

As I took a few steps out of the dark locker room into the brightness of that sunny day, this tough guy greeted me with a full-handed slap across my right cheek. I was totally shocked and in intense pain.  As stunning as the assault was that no one lifted their voice or a finger to help me. I was alone, in pain and publicly humiliated. I heard no one defending me. The only voice I heard was the sinister voice of shame.

The Impact of Shame

The voice of shame tells us that we are something bad. It is different from the guilt that we feel when we do something bad. Shame may accompany guilt for a while and that is normal. But feelings of shame can linger long after an incident is over. Even after we have confessed and turned from our sin, if that was the issue. We can also feel a sense of embarrassment and shame for no apparent reason.

Shame can create an insatiable desire for approval. It provokes us to perform to please others. It keeps us from reporting our abusers. It causes us to fear exposure and rejection. Shame robs us of the joy of forgiveness. It can dominate our thoughts, shutting out the loving voice of the Holy Spirit. Shame has done all this to me, so I know how it operates.

The Story of My Shame

I started to believe that I was not good enough when I was a child. My dad was easily angered and did not allow opinions contrary to his. My four siblings teased me as the baby of the family. My peers criticized my looks, and I was always nearly the last to be chosen when teams were picked. Boys that I liked rejected me. Then that older boy slapped me, and no one stepped in. I could go on.

Early in my life I decided that something must be inherently wrong with me. Maybe you came to the same conclusion about yourself. That was shame talking to us.

Shame did not stop there in my life. After being married for only a few months when I was twenty-one, my new husband decided he was done with marriage, so I was out. Angry and hurt, I then pursued nearly any guy who would bother with me, even virtual strangers.

I know now that shame’s voice is what lured me into that dark place. I had given up on being loved and accepted, so I settled for the fleeting pleasure of being used for a while. I ended up with a stack of shame a mile high and very little hope.

But God graciously met me in that valley of despair. He loved me into his arms where I have found acceptance and comfort throughout the many years since. But shame still screams at me from time to time tempting me to listen to its lies.

Silence the Voice of Shame

A New Identity

A few days after that young man hit me when I was a freshman in high school, my older brother, who was a senior, enlisted a couple of his friends and confronted him about it. He never bothered me again. Knowing my big brother stood up for me helped to dull the sting of my shame.

Jesus is a loving big brother to those who put their faith in him. He stood up for us against shame on the cross and provides a way out of it for good. (Hebrews 2:11-15) But we must lay hold of that deliverance. One of the first steps to doing so is to deny what shame says and believe God instead.

The Bible is full of the good things God says about us. But those encouraging words can be hard to accept when we have listened to the degrading voice of shame all our lives. Sometimes pride can tempt us to hold onto our old familiar, shame-filled identity. We may get some strange pleasure out of feeling sorry for ourselves over the bad things we have experienced.

But if we humble ourselves, let go of the past and choose to believe God’s voice, we will hear about a wonderful, new identity. The identity that he gives us as his loved, honored, and accepted child.

Start to Silence Shame

God changes and heals us by many means: prayer, worship, fellowship and his Word. I believe that the Bible is the most reliable and stable of these. It is a rock that never changes. (Matthew 7:24) Meditating on it teaches us who God is and who we are. It lowers the volume of shame and increases the volume of the love of God.

Here are just a few simple but powerful, biblical truths we can meditate on to begin to silence shame:

  • I am not ashamed. God says he removes the shame of my youth. (Isaiah 54:4)
  • I do not have to hide from others. God invites me to hide in him and be safe. (Psalm 32:7)
  • I am not rejected. God gladly chooses me and loves me. (Colossians 3:12)
  • I am not dirty. God says I am completely clean. (Ephesians 5:26)

Shame is cruel. It belittles us and whispers that we are substandard. It sneers at us and makes us want to hide. Shame has a loud voice, but it does not have the last word.

3 Keys to Conquer Rejection

“Then all the disciples forsook him and fled”. Matthew 26:56 ESV

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, every one of his disciples abandoned him.

Even after three years of walking the same road, sharing countless meals and hearing life-changing words spoken directly to them.

After Jesus invited them to share in his miracle-working, world-transforming mission.

After he freely offered them hope for each day and eternal life in his kingdom.

After he was patient with their short-comings, ignorance and unbelief.

After they promised never to leave. They all did just that. They ran away to protect themselves, leaving their teacher, friend and savior behind.

But being rejected by his friends at that harrowing moment didn’t deter the Lord one bit.

Jesus Knew What Was Coming and Didn’t Flinch

Jesus wasn’t deterred because he was prepared. We see this in Mark 14:27-31:

And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mark 14:27-31 ESV)

Their spirits were willing, but their flesh was weak (Matthew 26:41). You know the story. Peter follows Jesus as he is questioned about being a follower. But he emphatically denies even knowing him. He couldn’t even admit his association with Jesus to a lowly servant girl.

We have all denied Jesus in one way or another, and it is painful when we realize what we have done. We choose temporary human acceptance over God’s everlasting acceptance over and over. We are insecure and ashamed.

But let’s not get into that right now. Instead, let’s camp out on what Jesus did when frail humans like us preserved themselves and abandoned him.

Long before he prayed in Gethsemane for the last time, Jesus had prepared himself to be all alone with his pain on the night he was betrayed.

Yes, he chided Peter, James and John for not being able to stay awake and pray with him for a while as he agonized over his upcoming death. But even though he wanted their support as he prayed, he was never dependent on it.

Jesus knew what was in man (John 2:24) and he knew better than to entrust himself to them. He also knew from the beginning who would betray him (John 6:64).

But none of his foreknowledge about Peter or Judas or anyone who turned away from him changed how he lived his life or how he carried out his mission. He wouldn’t let it.

Standing Strong in Spite of Rejection

in John 8:28-29 during a conversation with the Pharisees, we find out how Jesus was able to stay strong during his time of greatest need, despite the massive rejection all the disciples.

28 So, Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

We can glean these three nuggets from those two verses:

  • What Jesus came to do was God’s idea, not his own.
  • Jesus carried out his mission just the way he was taught by his Father.
  • Jesus was never alone or abandoned because his Father was always with him.

When we are rejected, abandoned or betrayed by people who are supposed to love us, we can follow the example of Jesus. We can stand secure not letting mistreatment by others get us off track.

If we implement these 3 keys, no one can stop us from being and doing everything God has planned for us.

3 Keys to Conquer Rejection

  1. Remember that God has called you for a unique purpose and mission. (Ephesians 2:10)
  2. Rejoice that he gives you his Word and Spirit to guide you every step of the way. (John 14:26)
  3. Rest assured that your Father will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5-6)

In our darkest hour, we have hope. The coming of a bright dawn is inevitable. It may be dark on Friday, but Sunday’s coming!