Last weekend I made a special trip to Oklahoma to take care of my Dad while my sister and her husband took a much needed break. I had my day planned out perfectly. I slept in to make sure I got a full eight hours of sleep, spent some time talking to my husband, packed a small bag, stopped by the bank and off I went down the highway to Oklahoma.
As I was driving along, the shoe I was wearing was irritating my right foot. I kicked the shoe off and continued down the highway feeling much relief. As always, I stopped at my favorite mid-way stop to pick up a bag of popcorn. Once I stopped the car, I reached down and grabbed my shoe and went into the store. I checked the popcorn popper first to make sure they had enough then I went to the bathroom. As I walked along I spoke to all who walked passed by me. I took care of my business, washed my hands and headed back to get my popcorn.
I reminded the sales clerk that they had the best popcorn between Kansas and Oklahoma and convinced a truck driver to buy some also. I paid the bill and went back to the car. When I opened the car door I noticed a shoe in the floor and wondered why my blue shoe was sitting in the floor. I knew I had put it on before going in the store. That’s when I glanced down at my feet and realized I had on a blue suede flat shoe and a black tennis shoe!
The first thoughts that flashed through my mind were who had seen me. Did the man that held the door for me on the way in notice? Did the girl making the pizza’s look at my feet? What about the lady in the bathroom stall next to me, did she look under the stall? What about the sale’s clerk or the truck driver? I was trying to figure out if they had seen my error. I was ashamed. They must have thought I was crazy and had a good laugh at my expense. There I was prancing around with the mix-matched shoes on. Not me the fashion diva!
I started my car and hurriedly got back on the highway. All of a sudden I burst out laughing. What else could I do? I couldn’t wait to call my husband so he could get a big laugh. When I called him, he assured me it couldn’t have been too bad. However, once I sent him the picture he was embarrassed for me and laughed along with me.
This was not the first time I had made such an error and it wouldn’t be the last time. But the truth is there have been other times in my life where I have done things that have brought on true shame and embarrassment that was much more difficult to recover from. I have made mistake after mistake and cause myself much humiliation and distress. I remember going off to school and my mother saying “don’t do anything to shame us out.” In other words, “act like you got some sense girl.”
Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Other words used to describe this feeling include humiliation, embarrassment, discomfort, disgrace, and guilt. You have done something you regret doing or something that was pure foolishness. When I think back over my life, I have many moments of shame.
So what do you do when you have done something that has brought you pain and embarrassment?
How do we recover from the burden of guilt and shame? Here are five ways to deal with shame.
1. Quit trying to cover up or hide – The very first humans Adam and Eve were faced with the shame of committing the first sin. (Genesis 3) After they had sinned they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves and they hid themselves.
2. Don’t let shame control you – Shame can cause us to go into our shell. Shame can cause us to change our routine to avoid being around others. The woman at the well being ashamed of her failed marriages did her best to avoid being around others.
3. Don’t allow others to condemn you – The woman caught in adultery in the 8th chapter of John was brought to the temple by the Pharisees and teachers of the law to be stoned. They wanted to condemn her, but Jesus never accused her. He simply told her to “go and sin no more.”
4. Don’t allow your shame to cause you to lash out at others – When Peter was in the process of denying Jesus three times, he became angry at those who approached him about being a follower of Jesus. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.”
5. Seek forgiveness and forgive yourself – God knows that we will sin and He loves us and is willing to forgive us. 1 John 1:8-9 says that “If we say we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” Once our sins our forgiven we can let it go and quit trying to hold on to it.
If you are currently dealing with shame, take the necessary steps to redeem yourself and move on with your life. Lastly, meditate on Isaiah 54:4a (CEV) – Don’t be afraid or ashamed and don’t be discouraged. You won’t be disappointed. Forget how sinful you were when you were young.”
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach