What’s wrong with you?!
The voice whispered in my ear, not audible but powerful, claiming a monopoly on truth. The fact of the matter was that a relationship I cherished hovered on the precipice of disintegration. I rehashed our history, searching for any mistakes I’d made and the many ways I could’ve done better, been better. I felt overwhelmed by my failure. Shame seized the opportunity, and spoke up.
You’re so difficult to love. Is it any wonder?
The narrative wasn’t nice, and yet I felt powerless to stop it. At the moment, it felt so . . . true. And I’d heard similar intimations before from people who claimed to care about me. Some may be able to let these things go. But my heart felt like velcro and their words seemed to stick.
Isn’t this fallout proof that they were right all along?
I’m guessing a few of you have been the recipient of someone’s harsh words a time or two. Or maybe it’s not someone else’s voice but your own. You made a huge mistake, unintentional but a mistake just the same. Or maybe you completely overreacted or misspoke or lost all self-control. Whatever it was, you messed up, and the evidence against you piled high. The shame comes at you strong and hot:
You ruin everything. Why can’t you figure it out?
I’ve absorbed a lot of shame messages in my life. Some words came from people I trusted, while others came from my own self-condemnation. Somewhere along the way, I absorbed these messages and their accompanying shame as if it was confirmation of God’s disappointment. How do you recognize the lie when it comes covered in Scripture? How do you lift your head when the voices you admire look down? How do you counteract the internal and external accusations when you know firsthand how far you fall from God’s holiness?
My journey to living free of shame’s words has been a slow process of untangling, of learning to discern truth from lies and human condemnation from holy correction. Whereas I once believed God shunned me, I now know God embraces me, not because I make fewer mistakes but because He is just that beautiful and good. So what was the secret that helped set me free from shame’s voice?
I decided to let God speak for Himself.
Humans have historically done a poor job of speaking for God. So I went back to the Bible, and rather than elevating the voices of the people around me, I elevated His voice. And this is just a sample of what I discovered:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.”
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
Notice the words in bold text. Love is the tenor and texture of God’s voice. His words, even when strong, always come bathed in compassion, grace, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and mercy. He guides with grace, teaches with kindness, and corrects with compassion.
Yes, at times He will call you out. His Holiness will expose all that needs healed in you. But God’s light always comes warmed with His unending love. It will convict, but it will simultaneously comfort. While you may feel guilt, there will be no shame, and even the sting of conviction will feel like grace.
This is how you recognize the correction of God from the condemnation of man. While the latter voice will shame and break you, God’s voice will heal and rebuild you. And love you all the way through the process.
That is the voice to listen to, friends. Then go ahead and ignore all the others.