We all have an idea of the perfect Christian in our heads. Shame comes when we compare ourselves with this idea of perfection. Abi Stumvoll is a speaker and counselor who once prayed, “If you teach me how to love myself, I will change the world.” Read this article to learn how to break off shame and performance, and love yourself the way God does.
The image of who you’re supposed to be for God is a vain imagination that is exalting itself above what God says.
We all have a picture in our minds of the perfect Christian. We make long to-do lists and live by extreme expectations on ourselves to make ourselves better. The reality is we aren’t perfect, and God isn’t asking for perfection, He just wants your heart.
If I can connect to God’s love in my failure then I am never a failure.
My family circumstances throughout my childhood sent me the message, “See, you’re really not enough.” One day the Lord told me, “Abi, you were born to love and be loved.” When I heard God said “love,” all of the pressure and long to-do lists fell away. All I have to do is receive love from God and give love to other people. I can’t fail at that because it’s not a checklist. Even if I’m not doing something right, if I receive love from God, then I still win.
“ There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:16-19
What you sow in self-hatred you’ll reap in self-hatred.
Oftentimes when we mess up, we beat ourselves up thinking that if we punish ourselves enough we won’t do it again next time. This is called self-hatred, and it can make your life miserable. Lots of people try to lose weight because they feel like they won’t be good enough until they look a certain way. They can’t keep the weight off because they’re using self-hatred to motivate themselves and their bodies are responding to self-hatred.
In the garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan came and told Eve, “If you eat of this tree you will be like God.” He wanted her to believe that she wasn’t good enough on her own, and she had the power to grab something that would fix this problem apart from God.
It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because the knowledge it carried would give them the ability to judge themselves. It was God’s intent that they would never see their flaws. He never wanted anything to separate them from love. When eating from the tree, they realized they were naked. Instead of asking God about it, they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid from God.
Shame comes to identify us saying, “You are bad,” instead of “You did something bad,” causing us to hide.
When Adam and Eve hid God didn’t change his mind about them. He went to meet with them like He did every day. He went to find them in the garden, sending the message to all of creation that He is a pursuer. Once God found them, they all started blaming each other. Eve blamed the serpent, and God could have rebuked her for that, but instead, he agreed with her and cursed the serpent. He says “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and she will crush your head.”
Shame says if you make one mistake you will ruin your whole destiny. God has a redemption plan for the biggest problems.
The first thing out of God’s mouth wasn’t a rebuke, it was a redemption plan. If Eve made the biggest whoopsie in history and God still had a redemption plan, what is there that you could do that would take you off track?
If you have shame in your life, try these two things:
1. Get everything out into the light.
The way I’ve become free from shame is by telling people all the crazy stuff and owning my story. That’s why God asked Adam and Eve questions, He wanted them to own their story and be free from shame.
2. Posture your heart so that you’ll never say “no” to love.
Imagine right now what is the worst thing you have in your life that you think you should be passed by now. Now imagine yourself going up to the Father and sitting in His lap. Tug on His beard and look into His eyes. See that they are sparkling with love for you.
Say this out loud to yourself,
“I give myself permission to let myself off the hook. I don’t have to make me great, I don’t have to make myself Christ-like. I give myself permission to receive love and allow God to transform me.”