If you long for life-giving relationships with others – the kind where you can walk, laugh, and cry together – then you need to get comfortable with being real about your regret and shame.
You probably know what it's like to feel shame. It’s that gnawing fear that if people really knew, it would change the way they look at you. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes even embarrassing, and it feels easiest to shove it under the rug and pretend nothing is wrong. However, the growth and the relationships you crave lie on the other side of the pain you've been avoiding.
How to let go of shame
Sometimes, the pain we've been concealing from others is precisely what we need to experience in order to grow. If you’re struggling with shame, it’s time to take a closer look at the masks we wear.
Are we putting up facades to prevent others from getting too close? Are we hesitant to let people in due to past hurts? What are we faking in our lives?
Take off the mask
When we’re dealing with shame, we’re tempted to hide it away. This causes us to go about our daily lives with a figurative mask on – we keep our shame covered so all people see is the image we want to portray.
Perhaps you're hiding a drinking habit from your significant other. Maybe you maintain a secret social media account. And what about those guilty pleasures you enjoy behind closed doors? It's possible that you even catch yourself screaming at your kids or pretending that your mental health isn't an issue.
We hide these things because we're feeling ashamed and afraid – afraid of judgment, rejection, or further pain.
But here's the truth: the only way to experience true growth and progress is to muster the strength to remove the masks we wear. We often hide from the very things that hold the key to our healing and well-being.
You might be thinking, "I've tried facing the pain before, but it never works. I've been burned too many times. I can't go through that again. I’m scared to take my mask off and show people what I really feel inside."
It's understandable to worry that facing our pain again will only bring more fear and suffering. It feels easier to stay in hiding. But here's the good news: you don't have to face this journey alone.
Don’t go at it alone
The reality is, we don't possess the strength to white-knuckle our way through all the challenges we encounter. And that's actually a blessing in disguise.
What if life isn't solely about what we can do on our own? What if, instead, it's about relying on someone who possesses the strength we lack? Someone who can do what we cannot?
This is the message of Jesus.
Jesus isn't just a figure from history; he's the one you can trust, rely on, and lean into. Jesus invites us to place our burdens on him (1 Peter 5:7), to acknowledge our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9), and allow God to make us strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Following Jesus isn't about presenting a facade of strength; it's about embracing our vulnerability and letting God work through us.
We must acknowledge that we don't have the strength to conquer all our battles single-handedly. On our own, we're prone to failure and surrendering to fear. But the incredible news is that we were never meant to bear this weight alone. Our guilt, shame, and regret are covered by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. When we trust in him, the Spirit of God works in us, enabling us to conquer the impossible.
You may also want to enlist the help of other people in your process of identifying and releasing your shame. Talking to a pastor or mental health professional is a great step to help you tackle some of the difficult feelings that can come up. (Let us know if you need help finding someone!)
If you’re ready to take off the mask, and you’ve trusted that Jesus will strengthen you in the journey forward, you can finally release the weight of shame and guilt and stop faking.
The thought patterns or behaviors you're hiding? God can help you remove the mask. That career opportunity you've been avoiding? He's there to guide you through it. That family member you no longer speak to due to past hurts? With God's strength, restoration is possible. It won't be easy; in fact, it'll probably be downright difficult. But if you trust in Jesus, his power to overcome resides within you.
The growth you desire lies on the other side of the pain you've been avoiding. But remember, you don't have to face this pain alone. God wants you to acknowledge your weakness so that he can help. You are safe to trust in his strength as you bravely take off your mask and confront your pain. And as you do this, you’ll open yourself up to more trust and intimacy with the people in your life.
As you move forward on your journey to overcome and let go of shame, you may want some additional help. Check out these resources for more advice and encouragement:
How to Move On From Your Past
Bouncing Back From Bad Decisions
3 Truths to Overcome the Lies of New Beginnings
Or, let us know if you'd like to talk to a mental health professional or an LCBC pastor.
LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!