“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.”
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
I don’t want to write this blog. Even though my story is no longer a closely-kept secret, I’m not ready for it to be known to the masses. Everything inside me is recoiling as I type each word, as I get closer to revealing that shame that I had kept buried for so long.
You see, I was the good kid. I was the tennis-playing, choir-singing, cheerleading, Jesus-loving, A-plus-making kid. I was the never-got-a-detention kid. I was the kid with no curfew because my parents knew I was only out late with youth leaders or at church events.
And when I was sixteen, that’s all people ever saw.
I smiled a lot. I closed my eyes when we sang worship songs. I turned in my homework assignments with all the right answers. I laughed in the cafeteria and skipped down the hallways after school. Most of my teachers liked me, and I was always surrounded by friends.
But not everything was perfect. I wasn’t at the top of my class anymore like I always had been. My parents were fighting a lot, and it seemed like they were on the brink of divorce. I didn’t have that one best friend that I could rely on. My relationship with God was unsteady and tenuous.
Listing those out like they were problems feels foolish. I was embarrassed that those minor issues were causing me pain. So I didn’t tell anyone. Instead, I found a different way to cope.
I became a cutter.
When it hurt too much to deal with how I felt, I hurt myself instead. At first, it didn’t matter how I did it; anything worked. Thumbtacks, knives, coat hangers. Anything that drew blood on my skin helped me find relief from what I felt inside. Eventually, it became methodical. I kept a razor blade near my bed. I cleaned my wounds. I bandaged my scars.
And I kept them hidden.
I was the same person that I had been but in long sleeves. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on beneath. I was ashamed that I had turned to something so base. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. Self-injury becomes addictive. With pain comes an immediate rush of endorphins, and I was addicted to that temporary relief.
But it wasn’t the physical cycle that kept me in bondage; it was the spiritual. Each time I wanted to escape, I imagined exposing my secret. The shame crippled me, and I needed the release of cutting to lift me up. The enemy of our souls uses shame as a tool to keep us trapped.
What was I afraid of? Probably the same things that make me nervous to share this even now. I’m afraid some people will look at me differently. I’m afraid some might feel as if I should have known better. I’m afraid some might think I’m not equipped for (fill in the blank). I’m afraid some people might turn it into gossip.
It’s interesting about shame and fear; they only thrive in darkness. When we lay out our shame in vulnerability with believers who love us, something amazing happens. Light erupts from that dark place. And God tells us in His word that “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). I’m on the other side of cutting today. The Lord has allowed me to find healing in the light of His love and truth. The journey wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it.
Your struggle may not be cutting. But maybe you struggle with an addiction. Maybe you have a habit you keep hidden. Maybe you live with a dark secret. Maybe you carry shame from someone else’s actions. I imagine you’re reading this and thinking, “Me, too!”
There’s power in a “me, too.”
Find yours. If this resonated with you, if you’re still harboring unresolved shame, speak it. I don’t recommend blasting it all over the Internet (like I’m doing), but find a safe person. Find a believer, find a counselor, find a trusted friend. And watch God shine His light over the darkness of your shame. Discover the broken power of shame exposed.
Megan Hall (http://johnonethree.blogspot.com ) is a wife, mommy, teacher, writer, and passionate follower of Jesus. She is the founder of Dauntless Grace Ministries and co-founder of Shine Movement (http://shinemovement.org). When she’s not working on one of her million projects, you can probably find her hiding under her covers with a good book and a cup of coffee.
From Dauntless Grace Ministries’ “About” page.