Today we’re going to look at how to deal with shame which I believe is often the root cause of our inauthenticity.
Mind-Body doctor Gabor Mate says that inauthenticity causes disease.
I’m going to suggest 3 possible masks you might be wearing to cover up your shame. This will give a greater understanding of how it shows up in your life and hinders your healing.
then I’ll offer ways to deal with the shame God’s way.
So let’s dive in.
HOW TO DEAL WITH SHAME
He sees the person He created; the true authentic you, your essential self. What stops us from living authentically?
I believe it’s probably shame.
I believe that when God heals, he heals you back to the person He saw when He laid the foundation of the world.
In my experience, it’s not so much that God heals sickness, but that He heals the person.
Some people need a lot of healing; Naaman is one such person. Outwardly Naaman was this incredible leader with achievements and accolades which set him apart ‘But he had leprosy’.
He was so ashamed of it, hiding behind a mask became his way of escape.
When I was little, I was different to my friends who had blonde hair and blue eyes. My hair was curly and dark, plus I had freckles. Millions of them…and I hated them.
I made mum buy for me a pot of cream called ‘fade out’. I applied it liberally all over my face thinking my freckles would disappear. Of course they never did.
Brene Brown says that shame needs ‘silence, secrecy and judgement’ to exist. The story of Naaman, from 2 Kings 5, is about a man with a secret.
He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy
2 Kings 5:1
He had leprosy; a condition which would shun him from society, the worst of illnesses, a death sentence and even worse, a condition that is highly judged and stigmatised.
A perfect breeding ground for shame.
THE STORY OF NAAMAN
Elisha tells him to wash in the Jordan. In order to do so, he removes his prestigious clothes, leaves his silver and gold, his chariots and horses behind, and bares all.
In other words, he needed to remove the mask. God wanted Naaman to know that He wants him and loves him as he is. The true authentic Naaman.
The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, isn’t just about the healing of leprosy or pride. God knew Naaman was rooted in shame.
I tend to look at shame on 2 levels. There’s the conscious level; the things we know we’re embarrassed about.
Then there is the unconscious level; the things we’ve repressed at a young age.
Naaman in our story had conscious shame. He knew he had leprosy and covered it up with his prestigious role, his wealth and connections.
This must have caused him much turmoil.
Naaman had 2 identities. The one everyone saw; the image he presented to the world, and the one behind closed doors.
The heartache knowing he had a deadly incurable disease which society would reject.
Maybe you’ve allowed your illness to hide you away from people? You’ve given up on life, on your dreams, desires.
You stay hidden away in your comfort zone, feeling ashamed like you’re not good enough.
The world believes ‘achievements’ equal success. Marriage, parenthood, a healthy bank balance, holidays, a good career….
When sickness comes and these things disappear, how can we not be failures?
If this is you, know you’re not alone. I too have been there.
When God heals us, he heals us back into the person who He saw when He laid the foundation of the world.
We are born into an environment, a culture, a family where we adapt ourselves in order to be accepted by the world around us.
We pick up on unspoken messages about who we are and how we’re meant to show up in the world.
The need to be loved is stronger than the need to be authentic. Think of superman who created an alter-ego, a completely different existence, in order for the world to accept him.
We do the same, except we do it unconsciously. This causes conflict between our essential self (who we really are) and our reality.
Mind-Body doctor Gabor Mate says this lack of authenticity, this childhood programming causes illnesses in adult life.
Part of the healing journey is to partner with the Holy Spirit as He shows you who you really are.
As He leads you one step at a time.
Without realising, we deal with shame by wearing masks. These enable us to fit into the external world
Naaman was dependent upon riches and ranking. He presented a certain image to the world based on his accomplishments and roles.
He too wore a mask.
We surround ourselves with things that ‘medicate’. They stop us from feeling ashamed and revealing who we really are in the world.
Here are 3 of the most common ones:
THE PERFECTIONIST MASK
Perfectionists compare themselves to others and have a strong self-critical voice. They may have an irrationally high moral code and a need to obey rules.
They love to be in control, to appear wonderful and often project unrealistic goals on others. But they’re hiding behind a perfectionistic mask.
If they take off this mask, they feel ashamed of their flaws, failings and mistakes and also the things they believe aren’t good enough.
This causes great discomfort so they continue to wear the mask to deal with the shame. But this conceals who they really are.
My church pastor said recently that people don’t want picture-perfect Christians, just people in love with Jesus.
THE PEOPLE PLEASING MASK
If you’re a people pleaser you want to be liked and therefore sacrifice your own needs. You may struggle to say no, agree all the time and conform.
This is how you stay safe in the world. Your self -worth comes from the approval of others. You readily apologise and can’t stick up for yourself.
People pleasers are hiding behind a mask because they’re ashamed of their opinions, needs and their truth. They too think they’re not good enough.
THE ‘I AM STRONG’ MASK
Many of us are hiding behind the ‘be strong and not show weakness’ mask.
These people want others to perceive them as tough no matter the crisis and may even belittle emotions in others.
These mask wearers never admit to struggling, rarely apologise and think they can endure anything.
Most of them genuinely believe that this is true of them.
God wants to free them from the ‘be strong’ mask so the real them shines through.
Which mask do you identify with? Perhaps you are wearing other masks that I’ve not mentioned?
Naaman probably wore all of these masks.
What would your world be like if you took off all your masks?
I imagine Naaman externally wore a prestigious and superior ranking uniform. His mask tells the world he’s important, strong, successful.
He leaves this mask behind when he enters the river.
God wants you well, but He wants to heal you back into the real authentic you. The you that existed before your childhood programming.
But we have to remove the masks! When Naaman emerged from the waters,
his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
2 Kings 5:14
The you He saw when He laid the earth’s foundations. Not the you with all the masks you present to the world.
Which coping strategies or masks do you relate to? Are you ready to take them off?
HOW TO DEAL WITH SHAME GOD’S WAY
The story of Naaman shows us that God’s approval is able to heal our shame.
Have you ever been in a situation where shame dominates you? Experts say we don’t overcome shame, we find approval or acceptance for the very thing we’re ashamed of.
This is a healthy and realistic way of how to deal with shame. We need to receive God’s approval of us just as we are.
Because when we do that, we find the empowerment to embrace or befriend the very thing we’re running away from.
Shame releases a cortisol into our bodies amplifying our symptoms and hindering healing.
But wearing a mask like perfectionism or people pleasing also causes us to operate in a stress state.
We put a tremendous amount of pressure on our nervous systems when we wear these masks.
When we feel shame, our bodies go into toxic stress….. Your heart will beat faster, the cortisol and adrenaline will be there…..Shame creates neurochemical chaos in your brain…” Caroline Leaf
This is not how God wants us to live; it’s not his design.
Naaman needed to receive God’s unconditional love and approval from a place of authenticity, and ‘bare all’ before the healing took place.
The more we realise He is the source of our self-worth, those masks begin to lessen. This is how the shame loses it’s grip on our lives.
1. RECEIVE GOD’S APPROVAL
You may know in your head that God loves and accepts you, but do you receive this Truth in your heart?
In my opinion, it’s more a matter of us continuing to grow in the following areas:
- the love of God
- what Jesus has already done for us
- the power of the Holy Spirit
and as we gain a deeper revelation of his transformative love, our masks gradually get less and less.
He embraces every part of us. He doesn’t wait for us to improve ourselves.
You see it’s not really a matter of us ‘cleaning up our act’ or ‘sorting something out’ before God heals.
Christ makes you worthy. Just as we are forgiven for His names sake, we qualify for God’s healing and acceptance for His name’s sake. John 2:12
The Israelites had to deal with the shame of their past for hundreds of years because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in them.
They had to wait for God to heal them from it.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery…” Joshua 5:9
Because of the Cross, you and I are accepted just as we are, true naked authenticity.
2. RECOGNISE YOUR PRETENCE
Naaman hated his leprosy and covered it up with worldly ranking. He believed his position could earn acceptance and healing but it was this mask that hindered him.
Naaman wanted God to heal with all his pretense but God wanted him to realise that He was already enough. Like Naaman, are you hiding your authenticity because you’re listening to shame?
We see God’s desire for authenticity when he encounters the Syrophoencian woman. She initially called Jesus ‘Son of David’, despite having no right to use such a term.
Jesus made out he didn’t hear her. He was waiting for her to show herself as she really is – a non Jew. He was waiting for authenticity.
Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her with even a word.
Jesus showed this woman God’s approval of her. You see it wasn’t God who shamed or rejected the gentiles, it was the ‘rules’, the ‘restrictions’, or the ‘law’.
God is waiting for you and I to ‘take off our masks’. Just like Naaman when he took of all his prestigious clothes, when he entered into the Jordan.
What image are you projecting to the world? Are you pretending you have a extroverted personality because you think this gains popularity?
Do you think that productivity equals success? Or a certain lifestyle?
Are you chasing certain people because you think if they acknowledge you, this will give you status? (We see this in church life all the time).
There is no need to hide anything from our perfect Father in Heaven. He knows us and accepts us as we are.
3. OWN YOUR VULNERABILITY
God accepts Naaman without all the charades. If you remember Jesus radically touching the leper and ‘immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy’. Matt 5.
The leper knew of his condition but came to Jesus with no pretence. Likewise, God is waiting for us to approach Him with no charades.
God wants the real you to shine. Not the programmed you that projects a certain image to those in your world.
To me, the healing journey is one of discovering who you really are. This is the person the God saw when He laid the foundation of the world.
In my opinion, He doesn’t heal you into something you’re not. He heals you back into the person you really are. This is true authenticity.
When we were very young children, we had no filter. We cried, screamed, got angry, laughed, ….there was no need to be strong, perfect or good all the time.
We didn’t deal with shame because we had no shame.
But then we learnt that the real us wasn’t accepted. So we changed ourselves to fit in to the world around us.
This is how we survived.
Oftentimes we think shame is what we feel when we’ve done something wrong. But, SHAME COMES IN WHEN WE ADOPT SOMEONE ELSE’S VOICE ABOVE OUR OWN
(Image: Rebekah Ballagh Journey to Wellness)
We begin to heal when we acknowledge God’s approval above the voice of the world around us. This is where shame is quite deceptive and unconscious. We need the Holy Spirit’s help!
4. SIT WITH YOUR DISCOMFORT
Shame won’t survive when you name it, feel it and yet be on the receiving end of an understanding and a non judgemental attitude.
This is how we deal with shame.
This is one reason why counselling is so effective. Sometimes for the first time, the real authentic person is heard and accepted. As believers, you and I have direct access to the Counsellor.
The Holy Spirit already knows who you already are.
If there is a gap between who you really are and who you think you are, He will lead and guide you on your journey back to yourself.
“But shame is like a wound that is never exposed and therefore never heals.” Andreas Eschbach
When you experience God’s unconditional love and approval, you gain an empowerment to take off all those masks and embrace the wounds that hold you back.
When you embrace the Holy Spirit, you can sit with your discomfort and be ok with it, without feeling the need to wear a mask.
5. TAKE SHAME TO THE CROSS
Jesus went through absolute humiliation when he was crucified. Soldiers spat in his face and plucked the hairs of his beard. ‘I did not hide My face from shame and spitting’ Is 50:6
The crowds jeered and mocked him, shouting obscenities, and watched as he tried to carry the cross. He hung completely naked to his death, in front of all.
He did this for you. For the joy of your salvation, healing and freedom.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame. Heb 12:2
The Spirit in you heals all your shame. The Christ in you, as a born-again believer, is greater than any mistake, failing, character flaw, weakness or whatever it is you’re covering up.
Jesus carried your shame. This is the divine exchange. Can you exchange your shame for God’s acceptance?
“God puts glory and favour on us and it’s so overwhelming that it swallows up any shame” Joseph Prince.
Can you imagine the difference it would make if we all allowed who we are in Christ to swallow up any perceived messages from childhood or society telling us we’re not enough?
If we focused more on the Cross and resurrection of Jesus, than any weakness or failing.
YOU HAVE ABSOLUTE PERMISSION TO REMOVE YOUR MASKS AND BE YOURSELF.
If we took advantage of the freedom we have in Christ to be who He says we are, our essential selves. The Bible says that when you believe in him ‘you will never be put to shame’ Ps 25:3
I hope you have found this useful, I encourage you to take a read of the other posts on Naaman