In addition to fear of failure, I’ve also carried a lot of shame around for weird, twisty unknown reasons. I’m one of those annoyingly-quick-to-apologize types, even when something isn’t my fault. I must have asked Jesus to come into my heart forty or so times before I hit puberty. I even dealt with some obsessive-compulsive behaviors in middle school, showering multiple times a day and washing my hands until they bled. My parents almost didn’t know what to do with me. They’d done everything right and kept me safe. Why did I fret like this?
I naturally mellowed out as I grew up, but the painful awareness of sin and the feelings of shame still lingered. It didn’t matter that Jesus had died for me on the cross, apparently, because I lived life like a slave to my emotional baggage. I became obsessed with what people thought of me, in real life and online. I’d chase people down if I thought I’d been misunderstood or given someone a wrong impression. I’d rehash situations and scenarios in my head and in conversation with my people.
But after babies, when all hell broke loose and I hit rock bottom, I learned a little something about shame. I learned that as a follower of Jesus, shame actually doesn’t have to apply to me anymore. My best friend Jessi sent me a text during a particularly rough spell that really got my wheels turning. You can’t be found out. There is nothing that Jesus doesn’t already know about me, nothing that he didn’t already take with him to the cross. There are no skeletons, no dirty laundry. There is nothing that the world can find out about me that changes the fact that I am in Christ. To get to me, they have to come to Jesus. And that’s actually quite exhilarating.
Most people agree on the difference between shame and guilt, and that it’s the shame addresses identity where guilt addresses behavior. So if shame deals with who I am, then who I am is a daughter of the Most High and absolutely nothing can change that. I am free to experience guilt when I do something wrong. Guilt serves a purpose, to remind me of God’s kindness that leads to repentance. But shame? Shame doesn’t belong to me anymore. Because I belong to Jesus.