Shame is feeling unworthy. Guilt says, “I did a bad thing,” while shame says, “I am bad.”  There is a huge difference between a saint repenting of sin, and always feeling like a sinner. Shame erodes the core of our identity, so that we feel devalued, insignificant, deficient – worthless.

Shame is the belief that we are uniquely and fatally flawed; that we will never measure up to the standard for acceptance and approval. Shame declares that we are doomed for disappointment and disconnection.

Shame says:

“If others see the real you, they won’t accept you.”
“You are not good enough”
“You need to prove that you’re O.K. by doing more and getting it right”
“You are going to be embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, punished – alone”
“You will never overcome, succeed, prosper, flourish – thrive”

Ultimately, shame seeks to derail us from our destiny through feelings of despair, discouragement, dissatisfaction, distrust, doubtfulness, depression, and disillusionment.  Moreover, shame will not surrender or sympathize, no matter what we do to compensate for our perceived limitations and shortcomings.

Fulfilling the If’s

Shame always puts conditions on our sense of worthiness, attempting to lure us into the contractual terms of “If, then…” to achieve well-being and fulfillment.

Have you ever heard these shame stipulations speaking?

If I were smarter…then I would be accepted.
If I made more money…then I would be significant.
If I were thinner…then people would like me.
If I were taller…then I would be noticed.
If I had different hair…then I would fit in.
If I had some hair…then I would find a fulfilling relationship.
If I looked younger…then I would be valued.
If I looked older…then I would be valued.
If I were a different ethnicity…then I would have more recognition.
If I could just sing well…then I would be appreciated.

Honestly, if our “If’s” were fulfilled, would we really feel valued and accepted – worthy?  Honestly, I doubt it.  We would just find more “If’s” to fulfill.  Fulfilling the “If’s”, then, generates an insatiable demand for performance, which results in the need to satisfy the perception of unending un-fulfillment, requiring perpetual performance propelled by a sinking sense of shame.

Shame is the Source of Performance

Feelings of insignificance, un-acceptance, and unworthiness lead to the life-long pursuit of performing for approval. When we feel “less-than,” it is natural to want to prove the voice of shame wrong.  Shame demands continual and increasing compensation. Unfortunately, even our best performances will not silence shame. Rather, performance will just insist on more performance, becoming a ceaseless cycle of falling short of ours, and others expectations. Our continual awareness of inadequacy and ineptness results in the need to more, and to do it “right”. This perpetual push for performance leads to perfectionism never possessing a sense of well-being until we have satisfied the insatiable standards for approval and acceptance.

Rest from the Religion of Shame

Performance and perfectionism are the foundation of religion. Religion measures our worth by our work. Religion is man’s attempt to please God through self-effort and striving.

Religion is:

Work without relationship.
Serving without passion
Duty without empowerment

Shame is the religion of value by performance, and the religion of shame will allow no rest. The religion of shame, rooted in fear, wants to control us, and instill in us a need to control the environment around us, so that we feel safe and secure.  Unfortunately, this shame – fear – control syndrome is a false security, requiring continual striving, to maintain acceptance and approval.  The religion of shame offers no rest for the weary, demanding that we work harder, accomplish more, and perform better to achieve a sense of well-being and worthiness.  Jesus addressed the religious mind-set, when he said,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Rest from what?

Producing for approval
Achieving for acceptance
Performing for value
Accomplishing for acknowledgement
Striving for recognition
Working for fulfillment

It is only when we understand the truth that we are saved by His work, not ours, that we can be set free from the religion of shame.

The apostle Paul wrote,  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).  In other words, no one can achieve approval from God through performance. Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, and could never hope to accomplish through striving for perfection.  Revival rest is operating out of a sense of worthiness and well-being because of what Christ already purchased for us on the cross.  He worked to secure our love, acceptance and approval, so that we don’t have to.  “It is finished (John 19:30).”  That doesn’t mean that we don’t work, serve, and pursue excellence. No, grace actually empowers us to fulfill our destiny. Grace enables us to do more work, accomplish more, perform better, and serve faithfully without striving — without working for approval.

Revival rest is:

Working from love rather than for love
Working from acceptance rather than for acceptance
Working from approval rather than working for approval
Working from identity rather than for a destiny

Renouncing the religion of shame is essential to encounter true love, unconditional acceptance, and authentic identity, leading to a destiny of well-being and fulfilled accomplishment.

4 Steps in Renouncing the Religion of Shame

Recognize the “If” triggers that bring up shame in your life. Take the next week to identify and record the “If” thoughts that attempt to seduce you into shame and striving.

Replace the “If’s” with “I am’s” to solidify your identity.

“I am enough”
“I am worthy”
“I am wonderfully made”
“I am a saint”
“I am lovable”
“I am valuable”
“I am significant”
“I am acceptable”
“I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…”

Replace the “If’s” with “I can’s” to define your destiny

“I can have healthy connection with people without being perfect”
“I can be vulnerable and honest without the fear of rejection”
“I can be loved without strings attached”
“I can have well-being without doing more”
“I can make wise decisions and right choices without the fear of man”
“I can make mistakes without needing to perform for approval”
“I can make a difference in my sphere of influence without acknowledgement”
“I can be a history maker without recognition”
“I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…”

Reinforce the Truth of Your Identity and Destiny

Make your own list of “I am’s” and “I can’s”.
Say them once a day while looking into the mirror.
Write them on your mirror or some other conspicuous place to remind yourself regularly.
Send one “I am” and “I can” a day to your phone as a reminder.
Renouncing the religion of shame, then, requires a new way of thinking and believing.
Why not start today?
I want to encourage you to rest in the grace of God — released from the slavery of shame — free to rest while you work.