What is toxic shame?
Simply stated, toxic shame is an irrational feeling of worthlessness, humiliation, or self loathing. And it usually happens when someone has been through repeated, traumatic experiences generally during childhood.
Have you ever felt less than, humiliated, or shameful?
I know I have, in fact those feelings were all consuming for thirty-plus years. They were the fuel behind my victim mentality, addictions and yes even my success.
The good news is you are not alone.
You can overcome toxic shame.
In fact those of us that deal or have dealt with these feelings are actually in the company of some of the greatest spiritual leaders that have ever walked the earth.
Paul talks about his struggles with toxic shame and how we can do all things “through” Christ who strengthens us. Philippians 4:12-13 (NKJV)
Paul knew to survive by means of being humble, having just enough food to eat, clothing and only the necessities of life to sustain him for a day. He knew what it was like to be full and hungry. He also knew how to humbly live and thrive in prosperity (in overflow). Through it all, he knew it was only possible with the strength he received from Christ.
You might be thinking, “well that all sounds great but I’m sure Paul never went through any of the pain I’ve been through?” However, 2 Corinthians 11:21-29 (MEV) tells us that he suffered and endured plenty of trials and tribulations throughout his lifetime.
The truth is, Paul’s life was full of physical pain, emotional pain, and humiliation. More than most, Paul had to deal with toxic shame. Yet through it all he remained faithful to Christ. There is one more person who has suffered the emotional and physical pain as well as public humiliation, the King of all Kings.
What Does Toxic Shame Look Like?
Often times, when I speak I talk about my abuse. I talk about how my stepfather would beat me relentlessly with either a belt or his fist. How with each lashing of the belt he would repeat the words “you stupid S.O.B.” What’s more, both my stepfather and mother would publicly and privately humiliate me. All from the two people who were suppose to love and protect me. The two people who were born again Christians. My stepfather a Deacon of the church and my mother a member of the choir.
For years I questioned why God would allow this to happen to me. Then I think about Jesus and how he was whipped thirty-nine times and how he was paraded through Via Dolorosa (the “Way of Sorrow”), being taunted and spit on. The way he was nailed up on the cross and his clothes stripped from him. I believe there is no greater form of humiliation than what Christ suffered on the cross.
God is With You and Will Never Leave You
He cried out on the cross – My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46, as though be believed even his father was abandoning him. His last words were “It is finished.” At this point in time along with the miracles he had performed, he had also suffered every form of suffering that is humanly possibly. His job here on earth was done.
Yes I was abused and humiliated in ways no child or person should be. For years I was mad at God, full of rage and hate, and never feeling like I was good enough.
I always felt alone in my pain. The toxic shame felt like a never-ending battle to break the chains of darkness.
Today I look at stories like Paul’s and the last days of Jesus and know that I am not alone. The Lord is my shepherd and is with me in my pain. Many have walked the path in front of us and given us a well planned out road map to heal those wounds of abuse.
In my twelve-year recovery journey there is one thing I know that has kept me strong and courageous. It is the day I dropped to my knees and told God I needed to and wanted to change. It’s when I told God, I don’t want to drink or use anymore, but I can’t do it myself.
God I need your strength.
That day the obsession to drink and use immediately left me. However, what didn’t leave me was all the pain and shame attached to my abuse. In fact it got worse. The other thing that came upon me that morning was a strength and courage that only God could provide.
It has been a long journey and I have walked through a lot of shame and pain from my past. Yet, it is the only way we can truly achieve deep healing.
But without the strength and courage given to me that day by God, none of this would have been possible.
You too can have a life free of the pain and shame of your past.
Remember, what happened to you is not who you are.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
Randy Boyd is a Certified Life Coach – Change Your Life Story Now, Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader @ Destiny Church – Indio, CA – Author of the groundbreaking book Healing The Man Within – A Guide to Healing From The Pain of Sexual Abuse, and his newly released – 30-Day Devotional to Wholeness – With Scriptures and Contemplative Questions. Randy is the founder of the Courageous Foundation.