Did you experience physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse as a child? If so, you may feel a deep shame that makes it hard for you to believe you are as worthy as other people. It may even make it difficult for you to feel loved. Abuse is a direct attack on a person’s dignity. You had no way of knowing that, so you may have become a “shame sponge.” Did you soak up the dirt and shame that belongs to the abuser? If the person who hurt you was a family member, you may have added shame upon shame. After all, the family member who abused you may also be the one who took care of you. You needed the abuser in order to live. It created a confusing double bind. You couldn’t see the abuser as bad, so you saw yourself as bad. Even if the abuser was not a family member, the loss of dignity may have caused you to feel shame. Of course, there were other strong emotions, too. We will discuss those on another post.
The shameful feelings come from the lies planted in your mind and spirit, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by the abuser. Truthfully, no one is perfect, but you are not worse than others simply because of abuse. Even if you know that, you may not feel it. The perpetrator, however, should feel shame for hurting you, an innocent child. Changing the thought patterns and feelings developed in childhood requires some soul-searching work. If you haven’t received counseling, I recommend it. You can also help yourself by changing the messages you give yourself. Say, “Self, you are just as valuable and worthy as everyone else. The person who hurt you is the one who deserves the shame.” Telling yourself one time is not enough. You need to do it every time those old feelings stir your soul. It may feel like hard work, but it is worth it.
I am a Christian. I believe shame came into the world through Adam and Eve. They disobeyed God and hid in the garden to hide the shame they felt because they had no clothes. Fig leaves didn’t cover their shame. They needed more to cover their naked bodies. God confronted them and out of love covered them with animal skins. With the law of Moses, God began the practice of sacrificing lambs and other animals for the forgiveness of sins. The Bible says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed by blood, for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV) Finally, Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God came to earth as a baby. He showed people how to live, and He died for our sins. He took our shame. Anyone who accepts the gift of His sacrifice and follows Him will have eternal life in heaven. Even it you don’t believe in God, the shame you felt and may still feel doesn’t from the abuse belongs to the one who abused you, not you.