Breaking the Shame Cycle

Brene Brown defines shame as “the fear that we aren’t good enough.”  This is so strong that it causes us to protect ourselves from anyone or anything that would trigger that intense feeling.  As rational beings who are naturally motived by what we feel, this makes total sense!  Well, of course we will avoid, distract, or run from those moments.  The problem is we stay stuck in the cycle of shame.  Something happens that makes us feel unworthy, then we do something to feel different and we are good for a little while.  Then someone else says something or we fail at a task, and once again we are back in the quicksand of shame screaming for a rope to drag ourselves out.

Jesus’ Example

I have found one way to escape this cycle.  Honestly, I hate it and wish it wasn’t the way to change the hold of shame on my heart.  As a follower of Jesus, I began to look at the cross as the picture of shame dying.  Jesus on the cross was this broken, humiliated, grotesque man who was facing the intense feeling of shame.  How did He confront shame?  Did He avoid? Did He distract? Did He run? No! He revealed it.  He experienced it. He embraced it.  He became vulnerable in such a way that He opened Himself up to feel the pain of it all.  That is the way out of the shame cycle.  The power of shame is the fear of feeling it.  Once you allow yourself to feel that…then what can else can shame do?  The cross is a model of vulnerability and the example we have to follow.

Sharing what’s hidden

What could that look like?  For me, that meant sharing with others the parts of me I was embarrassed about.  I felt foolish being sad about being lonely in my 20’s.  I didn’t want to admit that.  I was embarrassed that I struggled financially when I compared myself to others.  I began to share when others hurt my feelings and made me feel worthless.  Maybe for you, that’s asking for help or allowing others to find out that you started seeing a counselor.  Or, it could be taking a risk that could cause humiliation.  Have you ever wanted to confess to someone about an addiction or sin, but felt too scared?  This is the path to break out of the shame cycle.  It’s going to hurt.  It’s going to feel unnatural. You’ll try to talk yourself out of it. Press on through all that, and you’ll begin to see the power of shame dwindle in your life.

Jesus’ path of suffering leads to healing and new life, and I believe yours will too.  You aren’t alone.  I’m on that path with you.


Nelz Samuel