I met a man about 4 months ago. The week after our first date (which was 36 hours long), I was in LA for the TRP Leadership Cohort. Despite the time zone difference, I still texted and called him relentlessly, and probably over shared a shit ton those first few phone calls. I talked to him about my anxiety, about my weird and beautiful relationship with God, and who the hell knows what else. It was everything and nothing, ya know what I mean?
I remember one afternoon, I’m talking to him about the anxiety about my relationship with my roomies, how I was feeling like I was a failure, how I hated how my mind jumped all the way to worst case scenario for nearly everything, and in the middle of me rambling on and on about how I just wish I knew what was wrong with me, he said something that was revolutionary for me.
“Kevin, there’s nothing wrong with you.”
There was no worship music, no highly emotionally charged Holy Ghost moment, but it was still a Divine word like I had never heard before. “Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with you.” And when it sank in, I immediately felt shameful about the way that I had put all this on a guy I hardly knew, a guy I was seriously trying to impress. Instead, I was letting him see my crazy and becoming increasingly more afraid that I was going to chase off, yet another, eligible bachelor.
But then he kept going, naming the things I had spoken to no one, including the shame I was feeling in the moment. He allowed space for me to move through feeling my unworthiness and feelings of abnormality and spoke the exact opposite. He spoke blessing and truth to a curse and a lie I was speaking over myself because it was spoken over me my entire life.
It was a moment where I stepped into a new kind of freedom. And every day that goes by, I feel new levels of freedom, exponential ways of growing, a different chain falling to the ground and off of my body.
The way I think about myself has changed. And it’s evidenced in so many ways, from the relationships I have with others, to the way I treat alcohol now, and food, and any number of things I tend to abuse.
And even in moments where we brush up against a new level of shame, something I didn’t know was there or something I had failed to look at in the past, he removes it, kind of like a blanket, and simply comforts the part of me that is weeping and hurting and hiding, and it slowly dissipates like water into steam in the hot summer sun.
I hope I do that for him… I really hope I can reciprocate a portion of what you have given me so early in our relationship. (And I know you’re reading this, babe, so just lmk if I’m ever not.)
Here’s why I’m telling you all this:
We need to start naming our shame.
You don’t need a significant other to confide in to begin to uncover and process shame you’ve been hiding from others.
And it’s always hidden. Always. Because that’s how shame works and lives: in secrecy and silence. But once we name it, once we uncover it up and let the light of love and empathy from others, it immediately begins to evaporate.
The words we speak have power.
In the creation story of Genisis, God speaks things into existence. And, in ancient Hebrew, the word for “Word” and “Thing” are the same exact thing. So, in the Hebrew understanding of the creation, it is the tongue that wields the power of creation. Words have weight and substance and form and they can create and they can destroy.
When I was saying these things to myself, about myself, that I’m a failure, I’m not measuring up, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, those things created in me a world that was my reality…
Until I named them and had someone hold space for me, and speak the truth to me that I might be failing but I’m not a failure, that I might not measure up to some standards but that I am more than enough, that there is nothing wrong with me….
Those things dominated me.I might be failing but that doesn't mean I'm a failure... Click To Tweet
I don’t know what your shame is.
It could be your body… your legs, or your arms that aren’t toned enough or your belly.
It could be your job… the thing that pays the bills but you hate, the waiting job you have just so you can survive, your ministry that you serve at with guilt because of what you’ve done.
It could be your sexuality or gender identity… that you like someone of the same sex, that you might not feel at home in the body you have, or that you don’t know what you feel about any of it.
It could be about sex and desire… the fact that you even feel attracted to someone, or the things you’ve done with other people or the fact that you haven’t done anything with anyone.
It could be your whole life… the lies you’ve told others, the hearts you’ve broken or the broken heart you carry, the darkest secrets that you carry with you, the things that have happened to you.
But whatever it is, I’m telling you that there is power in naming your shame. There is freedom in confessing the past and present.
You do not need a romantic partner to have someone in your life who will hold space for you. You do not need to have it all together and process through your shame to be vulnerable. In fact, the only way you will ever get it together is to tell someone and release it.
So here’s the action step for you.
Find someone in your life, who has earned your story, who has earned the weight of your authenticity, and begin naming some of this stuff. Begin to uncover the parts of you that you’ve ignored or the places you’ve been reluctant to venture. Start naming your shame.
About your body, your job, your whole life, what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, and the moment you name it is the moment you will step into greater freedom.
God is made manifest to us in other people, people who can look at you and say, “I love you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are okay. In fact, you are wonderful, and more than that, you are Beloved.”
I’m often drawn back to that verse where Jesus says, “What is easier? To tell someone their sins are forgiven or to get up and walk?” And then he says to the paralyzed man, “Pick up your mat and walk.” And he does, and the man gets up and walks.
Power and weight and substance. The power of creation, of life and death…
What would it be like to look in the mirror and say those same words to ourselves? What if we said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Or maybe, “Your body is beautiful.”
Or maybe, “Your mind is perfect.”
Or maybe, “You do a good job.”
Or maybe, “You deserve great love.”
Or maybe, “You are not a failure.”
Or maybe, “It wasn’t your fault.”
Or maybe, “The way you love isn’t bad.”
Or maybe, “You are so smart.”
Or maybe, “God loves you.”
Or maybe, “It’s okay to feel what you feel.”
Or maybe, “You’ve still got time.”
Or maybe, “You are enough.”
Or maybe, “You are okay.”
Or maybe, “In the name of Jesus, be healed.”
Or maybe, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
…that’s what’s in our words.
And it’s one thing to say it to ourselves. It’s another to have someone else who loves us say those things to us.
My challenge to you is to start with yourself, if you have to, but sometime soon, find someone to confess your heart to. Confess the shame you’ve been carrying, and lay it down before God.
Name it. Name your shame, dear one. Name it and let someone see all of you, and let someone love all of you. See how this kind of radical authenticity and vulnerability frees you up to be that person for others and frees you up to actually do the thing you’re here to do. See how this kind of self-love will lead you to a greater connection to God, to others, and to who you were always meant to be.
I believe in you.What would happen if we started naming the things we hid from everyone? Click To Tweet