“All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face.” Psalm 44:15
Some of us truly understand shame. It’s like we have been dipped in it, we have wallowed in it and things are sticking to us. We live out our lives in disgrace and in the sense of nasty embarrassment which we can’t truly resolve. And it affects all that we do, even in those rare moments we are not aware of it.
I honestly wish I was “teflon.” (I would love to have a ‘non-stick’ heart.) There is often a constant sense of being totally insufficient as a person. It seems I can develop a deep awareness of being defective and unworthy. Many of us feel this way all the time. It is painfully welded to us, and we keep trying to figure how to break that dark bond that’s on our hearts and minds.
Mental illness thrives on that blackness. Depression feeds on that stuff, it seems to cycle through us. Our pasts become its nourishment, and at certain times it flourishes. Sometimes it explodes in our minds, just like when you give your roses a dose of “Miracle Grow” (but in a bad way.)
I read recently, that chemists are trying very hard to develop a drug that would erase bad memories. The thinking is that people suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses will find freedom from very ugly events. Many of us, at certain points in our lives, truly absorb the evil. Some of us end up in prison, others are addicted, and a few go ahead and commit suicide. Shame truly is at its best when it can completely incapacitate and destroy a person.
Most end up with a mental illness, and because we are so complex, it is difficult to view it as a simple ’cause and effect.’ It really is much more complicated than that. Mental illness has many layers. But if we look at our issues from a different view point we can see things we might never see. A psychiatrist once told me that 90% of resident psych patients could go home, if only they knew were forgiven.
Shame is a monster that is constantly tracking us. At times we can put some distance between us. But occasionally it leaps up on our backs and drags us down. We are humiliated with our guilt. That is precisely when we should scream out for help.
There are pastors and psychiatrists, therapists and friends who are most helpful. Practicing prayer and soaking in worship can drive the monster away. Meds can very often provide a respite. All of these have helped me. But in all of this, we must be patient.
We are dealing with guilt, and there are spiritual issues that trump everything else. Human beings were never created to bear guilt, we don’t know what to do. Shame is vigorously parasitical and consuming. If it runs amok through your life it can and will destroy you. (It is caustic– a sure way to wreck you). Some Bible wisdom:
“You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.” Psalm 69:19
“…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:14
“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9:9
God has made an incredible provision for your guilt. Your sin, though it is crimson red in its intensity and very obvious, it can become as white as snow. Your shame and guilt can be erased.
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isa. 54:4
It was Mark Twain, who once said, “Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to.” We are ashamed, are we not, of things we’ve done in the past? The fact remains, nobody is free from shame who is unforgiven. Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us. But there is an infinitely a better way…