The Shame-Free Warrior

Shame. It plagues us, haunts our souls. Shame drives us to hide, to cover up. My fear is if you knew what I know about me, you’d reject me. You would withhold love.  So, in our shame, we compensate. We medicate. We cover up with anything that we think will fix our shame. The problem is nothing we try truly works. Trying harder, posturing and positioning does nothing but makes the shame worse.

What is Shame?

If guilt is stepping out of bounds, shame is not being able to get the ball into the endzone. Guilt is I broke the rules. Shame is there is something wrong with me. When God created Adam and Eve they were naked and unashamed. They hadn’t broken any of God’s rules and there was nothing wrong with them.

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:25 ESV

Think about that. Completely exposed and no shame. I’m not talking just physically but spiritually too. Their relationships with God and each other was completely fulfilled. God’s love for them was obvious. The Garden of Eden was the earthly epitome of heaven. God and mankind completely known and loved. No shame. Fully loved.

Then it Happened

Satan’s every move towards us is divisive. He wants to destroy, kill and consume us with all God is not. Shame is his way of keeping us hidden, convinced there is something unfixable in us. Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie. Look at this passage from Genesis 3.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. 

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 

Shame comes out of not believing what God says.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

Twisting the Word of God skews our view of truth and ourselves. 

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  Genesis 3:1-7 ESV

The illusion that they could be like God sounded so appealing. Shame isn’t always evident. It lies behind the lure of something promising. Something appealing. When Adam and Eve took the bait they fell hard. Their eyes were opened and shame overwhelmed them. They hid from God and covered themselves. Nakedness was too exposed. Too vulnerable.

Infected You

From then on every human was infected by the same sin bent. You and I are filled with shame. Your choices. Your actions reflect a broken heart. Shame screams at us You are flawed! And there is no way to fix yourself. Some guys medicate their shame with addictions. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Cockiness. Profanity. Overeating. Abuse of any kind. The more we self-medicate the more shame we pile on ourselves. Being more religious doesn’t compensate either. Performance only accentuates the shame. Guys who are workaholics often are such because shame says working harder fixes everything. Newsflash! Nothing you and I can ever do will erase shame. The pain of what’s wrong with you isn’t solved by or in your humanness.

The Only Way To Be Shame-free

Healing shame is only solved by facing the shame in Jesus Christ. In fact, the only shameless one to ever live willingly took on shame on our behalf. Picture him on the cross. Artist renditions show Jesus with a loincloth. Our ingrained sense of shame cannot imagine Jesus totally naked and without shame. Yet, because Jesus was sinless he had no personal shame. His oneness with His heavenly Father overcame the shame he bore on our behalf. He took on our shame, faced it head-on and overcame. That’s what the Gospel does. It breaks the grip of shame. Total forgiveness by your heavenly Father not only clears your guilt but it also eliminates all shame. Do not skim over that last sentence. Read it again. Total forgiveness by your heavenly Father not only clears your guilt but it also eliminates all shame. In Christ, there is nothing wrong with you. All of your unwanted shameful behaviors are washed clean in Christ. 

But such were some of you. 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV

In the passage, just before 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul lists a host of sinful practices that guarantee you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Many of the new Christ-followers in Corinth came from such lifestyles. The reason Paul said But such were some of you is firmly rooted in the Gospel. 

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:11b ESV

There is a direct correlation between shamelessness and authentic vulnerability. Jesus could be totally naked and unashamed on the cross because even in bearing our shame He was one with His heavenly Father. Yes, when he gave up his last breath he was separated from the Lord God but not unloved. His resurrection proves sin was defeated once and for all. 

When Will I Learn?

When will I learn that facing my shame in Christ frees me from the very shame that held me down? Yes, I’ve fallen for the lie that something is wrong with me. I believed for far too long that I was broken and not fixable, even as I followed Jesus. I didn’t see how the Gospel took away my shame. I didn’t see how God could love me unconditionally. For far too long I self-medicated. I felt trapped. Even in reading my Bible more or praying more or serving more it didn’t remove the shame. The answer came when I realized Jesus bore my shame once and for all. When shame wants to pull me down I look to Christ. Christ living in me is shame-free. Christ living in me is my 24/7 reminder that I am loved even in my mistakes, my misspoken words, my sin.

Where Do I Go From Here?

There is a huge difference between human imperfection and shame. There are many things you cannot do. No one ever expects you to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. To pass each exam with a perfect score. To win every project you go after. To live financially free every day. To follow Jesus flawlessly. Human limitations and imperfections are found in the most committed Christians. Nothing is wrong with you. The enemy feeds you the lie your imperfections are caused for shame. 

Shame will Chase You

Truth is as you live life, you will be involved in situations where shame wants to crush you. Someone takes a cheap shot at you revealing something of your past that you gave to God but now is out there for others to see. Your first reaction is to cringe and hide. To rationalize, to justify. But, before you slide into old ways of handling shame, stop, even for a moment, focusing on Christ instead. He not only bore your shame on the cross, but He is also with you in that very moment of shameful attacks. He is your defender. He is your presence. By His Spirit, He will remind you that you are completely loved by Him and nothing will ever take that away. You may get to a point where shame has less of a grip on you because your identity in Christ is greater, stronger. 

Ways to Conquer Shame

Conventional wisdom says to cover up shame. God says conventional wisdom never works. Instead, take a supernatural approach that wins every time you yield to the Spirit. Here are some real-situations that bring shame.

You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about something stupid you did years ago. You know God’s forgiven you, but you get this awful feeling that if anyone found out, the shame would haunt you all over again. At that moment on your bed, openly give that shame back to God. Refuse Satan’s ploy to crush you with that shame. You are forgiven and the shame of that choice is paid for by Christ.

You look at that tattoo you got when you were not walking with God. Not that tattoos are necessarily wrong, but the image of that particular tattoo reminds you of a time when you were living for yourself. Shame makes you want to hide that tat. In Christ, you can expose it knowing that there is a testimony of how God pulled you out of a dark place. His redemption redirected your life.

You have believed the mantra you are not good enough. Those you look up to only point out your flaws. To compensate, you’ve wrapped yourself up in a secret porn addiction. The problem is your secret was posted online! Confession. Repentance. Facing the shame head-on in Christ means you give him the inner pain that led you to the addiction. You remind yourself of your identity in Christ and you ask for godly men to help you keep Christ as your focus.

Warrior On Shame Free!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.