Thursday, September 27, 2007

Toxic Shame

Almost everybody has something they are ashamed of. Something in our past that we would rather just forget about and move on. Something that we hope no one else ever finds out. Some have made peace with their secret past. They have moved on. They experienced a healthy sense of shame that led them to a realization that dishonor and dishonorable behavior was unacceptable. They have been honest with God (and others) and confessed and turned from it. They have healed/are healing from the damage. Others have not.

There are many who live with a toxic sense of shame. They feel more than guilt. They don’t just feel bad about what they did, they are what they did. Toxic shame, the shame that poisons us, is experienced as the all pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being. In his book, The Road Less Traveled Scott Peck explains, “Toxic shame is a state of being, a core identity. Toxic shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing and falling short as a human being. Toxic shame is a rupture of the self with the self”.

Toxic shame is like internal bleeding. “Exposure to oneself lies at the heart of toxic shame” says Peck. “A shameful person will guard against exposing his inner self to others.” He will live with a sense he is a failure to himself. His identity is now intrinsically connected with past failure. He has’nt just a guilty conscience for a particular failure, he is a failure. He has not let himself and others down, he feels he is a let-down.

Erik Erikson writes,

"Once internalized, toxic shame is functionally autonomous, which means that it can be triggered internally without any attending stimulus. One can imagine a situation and feel deep shame. One can be alone and trigger a shaming spiral through internal self- talk. The more one experiences shame, the more one is ashamed and the beat goes on.
It is this dead-end quality of shame that makes it so hopeless. The possibility for repair seems foreclosed if one is essentially flawed as a human being. Add to that the self-generating quality of shame, and one can see the devastating, soul-murdering power of neurotic shame.
The reader can begin to see how dramatic it was for me to discover the dynamics of shame. By being aware of the dynamics of shame, by naming it, we gain some power over it."

Do you have a healthy sense of shame? Do you have a strong desire not to dishonor yourself and those you love (especially God)? Or has something much more toxic been diabolically set up in your life? There is hope in Jesus Christ. If you don’t like the person you have become you can be made new.

2 Cor. 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Join us this weekend at NCC as we find a hope-filled new identity in Christ. Hear the final message in the “My Secret” series and discover how to be free from shame and receive new energy in life!

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