The story of Naaman is one of a man dominated by shame.
Outwardly he 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, instead of hiding behind his cover-up, Naaman needed to remove it, which meant revealing the very thing he was so ashamed of.
God doesn’t see him the way Naaman sees himself. God wanted Naaman to know that He wants him and loves him as he is. The true authentic Naaman, with no hiding behind any mask.
The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, isn’t just about the healing of leprosy or pride. He knew what it was to feel shame.
Counsellor and theologian, John Bradshaw says that when we feel shame, we alienate those parts of ourselves we don’t like resulting in separation from ourselves.
We become separate from those around us as well. The only way we survive is to create a cover-up.
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 that we probably don’t know about yet.
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.
We are led to believe that ‘achievements’ equal success. Marriage, parenthood, a healthy bank balance, holidays, a good career…. so when sickness comes and these things are now gone, how can we not be failures? How can our self esteem and sense of worth not be affected?
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.
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.
Nervous System expert Irene Lyon says ‘this causes the child to go into survival stress….. we need to rebuild our foundations, cellularly, body based, somatically..’ (I will write a post on this soon)
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.
Naaman was dependent upon riches and ranking. He presented a certain image to the world based on his accomplishments and roles. He wore a mask.
We surround ourselves with things that ‘medicate’. They stop us from feeling ashamed and revealing who we really are the world.
Adam and Eve took from the wrong tree and shame entered the garden. Their reaction was to hide away. If you remember they tried to cover up by sewing fig leaves together. This was their mask.
So how exactly do we cover up our true selves to fit into the external world around us? When we feel ashamed, we wear numerous masks; here are 3 of the most common ones.
You probably fit in to at least one of the following coping strategies, or drivers. Remember they are unconscious and are umbrella terms for a variety of guises.
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.
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. See THE STORY OF BARTIMAEUS: THE DISEASE TO PLEASE
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.
In other words, these people, when hiding behind the mask is no longer available, feel very ashamed of weakness, getting it wrong, emotions and vulnerability.
Which mask do you identify with? Perhaps you are wearing other masks that I’ve not mentioned? Naaman probably wore all of these masks.
Can you imagine your life free from coping mechanisms? 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.
I hope this supports you on your healing journey. You’re probably wondering what the solution is to the shame we’ve been hiding, so do check out the next post in this series on the story of Naaman.