After one of my Allies talks, a man shared with me that he grew up with porn sitting out in his home. It had been a struggle for a long season. Now he’s a dad walking free from the bondage to porn, but not from the bondage of shame.
Shame is a wretched foe that can keep us from living authentically. It can stymie our spiritual growth. It can keep us from intimacy in relationships. Shame can also impact our ability to lead our kids toward a God-honoring view of sexuality.
Shame. The great inhibitor. A silencer. A foe. Even little ones can feel its effects. Many adults have never found freedom from its grip. As I work to show parents how to become an ally to their kids in today’s sexualized culture, shame is probably the greatest obstacle I sense in my audience.
How has shame impacted your life? How do we let go of shame and teach our kids to recognize it so it doesn’t take hold in their lives? How do we distinguish between the life-giving conviction of the Holy Spirit and the life-taking lies of shame and condemnation from our soul enemy? How do we help our kids walk free of shame, especially any shame that is now shrouding their good and God-given sexuality?
Our soul enemy knows the sacredness and power of sexuality and will arrive in a vulnerable moment with a cornucopia of lies and condemnation. Our stories of sexual brokenness become riddled with the enemy’s lies that can keep us trapped in shame.
Our stories don’t define us, but they can confine us if we give in to the lies associated with them.
In order to let go of shame, we have to examine its roots, expose any lies we’re believing related to our stories, and find a safe place in which to share about the experiences that shaped us. Here are some thoughts on how to do this.
- Recognize the roots of your shame-filled thoughts.
Several years ago, my husband and I were enjoying a relaxing week at the beach. It was the perfect setting for some good, uninterrupted time with God. But I’d avoided God that week and it was almost time to go home. I began some self-talk that was quite critical. God interrupted my spiraling thoughts with a simple whisper in my spirit, “I don’t speak to you in those terms.” I realized my thoughts were condemning rather than truthful and grace-filled. Of course I would have benefitted from more time with God that week. I had missed out on a great opportunity. But it didn’t change how God felt about me or who I was as His beloved child.
Learn to recognize where your shame-filled thoughts are rooted. Conviction from God is loving, like a Dad who knows what’s best for his child. Condemnation is from the enemy who wants to draw you away from God toward shame and isolation.
“That show isn’t helping you become the man you want to be.” versus “You’re just a hypocrite, always saying one thing and doing another.”
God’s voice leads to life. The enemy’s voice leads to isolation and feelings of worthlessness.
- Recognize any lies you’ve internalized that have become identity statements.
In a broken world we’ve all strayed from God’s best for us, and we all experience wounding along the way. We’re quite vulnerable to the enemy’s lies in those weak moments. Satan is the father of lies, and he comes armed with them. When we’re hurting, the pain is real, and we believe the lie is real also.
“No one would love you if they knew that.”
“You’re scum. You’ll never change.”
“You should have known better. It’s all your fault.”
Lies quickly become identity statements:
You are not what you have done. You are not what’s been done to you. You are made in God’s image. You have intrinsic worth. As a follower of Christ, your sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. His death on the cross makes you righteous, right now. You’ve been made pure in Christ. You are deeply loved by Christ. You have hope because of Christ. (For more on what it means to follow Christ, click here.)
Expose the lies for what they are and replace them with the truth.
“I am forever loved because God is love and God made me in His image.”
“My past does not define me. God alone declares my worth.”
(You’ll find a beautiful scripture text of all Christ has done for us and our identity in Him in Ephesians 1:3-2:10.)
Help your kids learn to recognize the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the shame of the enemy. Help them find words to express how they feel and probe a little to discover any identity statements that need to be dismantled.
Though he may feel bad for telling a lie, he’s not a bad boy; he’s a boy who told a lie who needs to understand how important and good it is when we tell the truth. She’s not perverted because she looked at the porn she found on her phone; she’s a girl curious about bodies and sex who needs information from safe sources. Don’t let the enemy of shame take hold in your kids’ hearts through lies internalized in a vulnerable moment.
- Recognize the power of healing in community.
A friend is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) who knows well the crippling effects of shame in a person’s struggle toward sexual wholeness and redemption. I asked her how people begin to walk in true freedom. She shared that individual counseling can be so helpful, but she typically begins to see a breakthrough when her clients process their shame in community.
As we share our dark and shame-filled stories and realize we are still loved, shame loses its power. This could be a game-changer for you and for your kids.
If you struggle with shame, find a trusted friend or counselor to share with confidentially. Exposing lies to the light of truth can be powerful. Become that trusted ally that your kids need in their vulnerable moments. Become your child’s safe place to share so shame won’t take hold in his little heart.
Though sin has consequences and wounds can leave scars, God is the great provider and healer. He sees your past and your future. He died so you could live a life free of the bondage of shame. Spend some time in His presence and in His word to uncover any shame in your life and replace any false identity statements you’ve adopted. You’ll find that God has so much more for you as you begin to relinquish shame and embrace truth. And you’ll be better able to lead your kids toward lives of integrity and authenticity. Trust. Take the next step.
Let us know how we can encourage you as you work to become an ally to your kids in today’s sexualized culture. Share topics you’re curious about. We’d love to hear from you! Email me at email@example.com.
Founder and CEO
TrueNorth Freedom Project, Atlanta, GA
Photo by Nine Kopfer
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1 John 6:68 NASB