Acting Out Always Brings More Shame

Shame that is a product of our acting out is somewhat different than shame that was the precursor to our acting out, although both weeds share the same roots.  And shame is often at the core of our struggles with anxiety, depression, and relational issues.

Man striving to roll huge boulderAs we looked at in detail already, precursor shame leads to discomfort that we feel we need to make go away.  Typically, the deeper the pain, the more extreme our acting out behaviors become.  Certainly, there is a wide gap between gorging on Oreos verses being a serial killer.  But believe it or not, the toxic shame that may underlie both examples might not be all that different.  The serial killer probably allowed the shame in his or her heart to go unchecked, and to spiral progressively further down over the course of many years.

Product shame typically presents itself in some sort of self-deprecating thoughts and feelings.  I’ve read hundreds of books throughout my life, and another one of my all-time favorites is The Search for Significance by Robert McGee.  This book is actually one of the top 10 most read Christian books of all time!

Every single time, after succumbing to my secret sin, I would be overwhelmed with a heavy cloak of shame.  Sometimes I would cry out to God, asking Him to have mercy on my wretched ways.  Other times I would just sob as waves of shame, guilt, and worthlessness crashed over me.  Suffice it to say, there was never a time after viewing pornography that I was glad I had.

Our Relentless Search For Significance

McGee writes from the premise that every human being is on a constant search for significance (e.g. worth, meaning, purpose, identity).  In his career as a Christian counselor that spanned several decades, McGee discovered that people tend to separate into four distinct tendencies in their relentless search for significance, even when they know consciously that these will not bring the ultimate fulfillment they are searching for.

  1. The Performance Trap: “I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.”
  2. Approval Addict: “I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself.”
  3. The Blame Game: “Those who fail (including myself) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.
  4. Shame: “I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.”

Once we’ve acted out our drug of choice, the enemy is right on our heels trying to convince us of how worthless we are for failing again, despite the fact that he is the one who urged us to do it.  In my use of the phrase “drug of choice,” I’m employing a broad use of terms which could include meth as a drug or alcohol as a drug or marijuana as a drug, but also pornography or gambling or adultery or binge watching or overeating or sneaking Oreos as drugs as well.

I agree with Robert McGee in that, through my own counseling work, it appears the clients who come to see me due to the pain of unresolved toxic shame seem to be dispersed into these same four groupings.  He went even further in the book to break down the most common consequences of these four false beliefs, as well as providing very practical, effective answers from God’s word.  Later, I’ll go into greater detail about God’s answers.  For now, let’s focus on the typical consequences.

Wrong Place to Search False Belief Typical Consequences
The Performance Trap I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself The fear of failure; perfectionism; drive to succeed; manipulation of others to achieve success; withdrawal from healthy risks
Approval Addict I must be approved of by certain others to feel good about myself The fear of rejection; attempts to please others at any cost; overly sensitive to criticism; withdrawal from others to avoid disapproval.
The Blame Game Those who fail (including myself) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished The fear of punishment; punishing others; blaming others for personal failure; withdrawal from God and others; drive to avoid failure
Shame I am what I am.  I cannot change.  I am hopeless. Feelings of shame, hopelessness, and inferiority; passivity; loss of creativity; isolation; withdrawal from others

God wants you to be free from the grip of toxic shame in your life.  If you’re ready to take the first step (or maybe next step), please call us today for Christian counseling.  We offer convenient session at our office in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as online counseling via Zoom or FaceTime.  Our counselors are specifically equipped to work with men and women who are ready to get to the core of their shame, as well as the anxiety, depression, and conflicts in marriage or other relationships.  Our team is highly experienced and equipped to walk with you on this journey from brokenness to wholeness. Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at drdave@lifetrainingcounseling.org