Shame: A Toxic World of Self-Deception

Jonathan Daugherty

Shame is the underlying belief that you are defective as a person. It is different from guilt. Guilt is actually good because it alerts us to inappropriate behaviors and can be a useful emotion to point us back to truth. But shame is destructive because it doesn’t act as an alarm for wrong behavior. Instead, it chooses to attack your personhood through the deception that screams into your soul, “You are a mistake.” It slides right by the behavior and lunges at your inner being.

This toxic self-deception can create great confusion, frustration, and even despair to the point of seeking relief through addictive patterns.

The entire premise of shame-based thinking is founded on lies. You are NOT a mistake. God took great care and precision in fashioning you after Himself (Gen. 1:26,27; Psa. 139:13-16). But shame wants to cause you to believe that at the core of your being your design is defective. If that were true, then God Himself is defective. Shame lies about who you really are.

But belief is a funny thing, isn’t it? Does the object of your belief need to actually be true to keep you from acting as if it were? No! A good example would be people who believe in Santa Claus. The fact that Santa doesn’t exist in reality (sorry) has no bearing on how people who believe he exists will act. The belief is what ultimately drives the behavior, not the object.

So, if shame has convinced you that you are defective at the core, a mere cosmic mistake, guess where your actions will follow? They will lead you down a path of self-hatred and woundedness because the belief says you should behave in self-destructive ways.

So, where do we form our beliefs? From our thoughts. Do you see the breadcrumb trail we are on now? Starting with your self-damaging behaviors, you wind a trail back to the underlying beliefs of shame, and then you must come to their place of origin: your thoughts. Thoughts are those ideas that we allow to remain in our minds until they become patterns of thinking. Imagine thoughts being to you what cud is to a cow. You bite off an idea you read in the paper, or in a passage of Scripture, a conversation you had with a friend, or from a sermon you just heard. You chew on it for a while and down it goes into your mind library. Over time you bring it back up to chew on it a little more and send it back down, this time even deeper than before. Do this long enough and you form a belief, whether the original idea was true or not.

Shame is toxic because it moves us to embrace false beliefs that affect how we view everything else in life. If you latch on to the belief that you are a mistake and defective at your core, every decision you make in life from that point forward will be tainted in some way by this false belief. This is why it is so important to combat the lies of shame with the truth of God’s Word.

We are told that God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Now that’s the kind of weapon we need to extract this cancer of shame! As you wield the Sword of the Spirit in all the areas where shame has deceived you, new patterns of thought based on truth will form new beliefs. Your new beliefs will move you toward actions consistent with your true identity and carry you farther and farther from your old, shame-based lifestyle. But in the same way it took time for you to create a belief system built on shame’s lies, it will take time to reverse such a system and develop truth-based beliefs.

The following are some good starting points for building a new belief system based on truth.
Think of these verses as ‘Truth Cud.’

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

‘ Galatians 2:20 ‘ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

‘ 2 Peter 1:3 ‘ His [God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Start chewing on truth today. As you bring truths such as these listed above back to your mind over time, you will not only develop a new system of belief, but you will also destroy the stronghold of shame in your life. And when shame is destroyed, purity and joy will thrive!

Need additional help in the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.