Tall, smart, quiet, lanky, blonde, and freckled would be the words I’d describe myself as a girl. One would think with that description I would have been confident in my appearance and acceptance of others. Not the case! I was too tall, too lanky…I did not feel normal, smart enough or pretty enough. In middle school, even during warm weather, I would wear long sleeves in humid south Texas to cover my shame of thin arms. In preschool, I was “chatty Cathy” but by late elementary school I became quiet; self critical of how I would sound if I spoke up. In third grade, I had panic attacks over doing math flash cards in class! I was my own worse critic and fearful of not measuring up among my peers in academic ability, physical appearance and worth as a friend. I worried and ruminated, replaying my negative self perceptions, heightened by self criticism and shame. Not only did I suffer anxiety, but cycles of depression as well, coinciding with PMS. Where was the joy?!
Multiple members of my family lived with anxiety. Since anxiety can be genetically linked, it is no surprise that I also had that struggle. Studies have also indicated that “shame is a major component of a range of mental health problems” including anxiety and depression.***There were sound reasons why my childhood experience, created my shame, fueling my anxiety and depression as a young adult. Should the rest of my life be dictated by the perceptions I formed as a child? No. There is a way to change and heal the shame. I have a choice. I can choose to live with my identity of shame, doomed to feel anxious with an outlook of depression OR choose to have compassion for my experiences and reparent my shame driven inner child to become a purposed secure adult with a mind-set of joy.
Living in Joy is a mind-set, a choice, not a fleeting mood. It is independent and unconditional, not influenced by circumstances. How can this “joy” be realized? In John 15 Jesus urges the disciples to v4 “remain in Him” to v9 “remain in His Love”. Jesus asked them to trust His love.
I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. John15:11(NET)
David proclaims in Psalms 16:1
You lead me in the path of life;
I experience absolute joy in your presence;
you always give me sheer delight.
David felt joy as he realized God’s presence, seeking God to lead him to a path of life. David trusted God’s love.
Turning shame to joy takes trusting in the love of God.
To turn my shame to joy I must first take off, leave behind, my old broken self.
This is done by having compassion for my experiences and seeking to understand that I live in a broken world of imperfect people that can affect my self perception. I learned to cope in not so effective ways leading to sadness and anxious thoughts. Unworthy, not good enough, defective, unimportant were the deceiving words of my shame. Yet, there were other words that I heard from God, such as loved, accepted, and purposed, that I was not sure I could trust. God called me at an early age, I do not ever remember not loving Jesus. But it took me years to learn to tell my “little girl” that she was precious and God’s love was for her. I needed to trust God’s, my Father’s, love to reparent my shame and build my confidence in order to take the next step….To put on my new identity as His child and live life like it was true.
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:21-14 (NLT)
As His child, I am able to think and act differently through the power of His Spirit that now “remains in me”. It is a process each day, building on my trust as I read His word and seek His presence. Tony Evans says that “Faith is acting like it is so, even when is is not so, so that it might be so, simply because God said so.” I choose to see myself as precious and valuable acting as if it is so, even when, at times, it did not seem so…..it is becoming so…turning my shame to joy living in the trustworthy love of my Father. In joy I live, confident in my worth with contentment in my circumstance, giving the light of God’s presence to others.
The process of living in my new identity releases the shame and allows joy to arise. The mindset of joy is maintained through faith, prayer, thankfulness and being open to the Holy Spirit as is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19:
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Renewing your attitude towards the mindset of trusting God’s love and living in joy is not a “task” for you to toil in alone. God will strengthen you and direct you into His love.
5 May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. (NLT)
SO..take off the broken, the shame and let God turn it into SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL as described in this song by Steven Curtis Chapman.
(***Gilbert, P., Procter, S. (2006) Compassionate Mind Training for People with High Shame and Self Criticism: Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 353-379.)