Acting Out Our Shame
The Bible tells us that each of us is made by God as a composite of three distinct components: “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT)
In a world without sin, we would truly be blameless in these ways. The word blameless means “innocent of wrongdoing.” We would have no wrongdoing in our spirit or soul or body. But unfortunately, that’s not the world we exist in. This characterizes one of the most important reasons Jesus died on the cross – to pay the penalty for the wrong you and I have done (justification), and to satisfy God’s wrath toward us as sinful man (propitiation).
Scripture uniformly traces voluntary, intentional sin to its root cause in sinful human nature. Sinful acts are the fruit of a “depraved” nature (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 7:20-23), which is simply a nature bent toward impurity or immorality.
We Were Given A Free Will
So, what does this have to do with acting out? As human beings, our Creator gave us a free will. Sin gave us a depraved nature. When our free will intersects with our depraved nature it creates the perfect storm! A recipe for disaster. Human history has proven that when we allow shame to spiral to a progressively lower and lower state, depravity may manifest in ways we would have never imagined.
My pet method of acting out was to secretly view pornography. Private, secret, not hurting anybody, right? This was in the days before the internet was “invented.” So, believe it or not, there were actually times I would go to a video store (my local Blockbuster) and rent not only a video, but also the VHS player to play it with! Speaking of desperate. I can’t even begin to tell you the lengths I went to so that I wouldn’t be found out.
I recently viewed a TV documentary that chronicled the story of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A quote from an interview with this man clearly illustrates the slippery slope of succumbing to the shame within us, no matter how seemingly small it seems at first: “With the clock ticking toward his scheduled execution, Ted Bundy tearfully blamed a growing addiction to pornography for fueling one of the most gruesome killing sprees in recent history… ”Pornography…was the fuel for his fantasies to do all of the things he did.”
Our Hearts Need Exposed To The Light
If we don’t allow the darkness of our hearts to be exposed to the regenerative light of Jesus Christ, the inclination of our human depravity might lead us into choices we thought we would never make.
Needless to say, acting out can take the form of any or all of the three inborn components of our nature: spirit, soul, body. Consider these few examples:
But I’m Not That Bad
Some of you reading this may be thinking to yourself, “Even my worst choices aren’t anywhere near as bad as these examples.” Praise God. I’m certainly glad they’re not. But this information still may be for you. None of us should accept being captive to a repeated cycle of shame and acting out, even if it’s as benign as compulsively reading romance novels or eating Oreos. The issue is more than just the nature or extent of the behavior being acted out. It’s the unchecked influence of our internalized shame that is driving us to do the compulsive behavior to begin with. Even seemingly innocuous choices can keep the shame cycle spinning if they lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and the desire to conceal our behavior from others.
Your secret may be the compulsion to sneak a package of Oreos out of the cupboard late at night, hoping to relieve your feelings of rejection and unworthiness through your compulsion to consume your favorite comfort food in excess. This may lead to feelings of guilt, which convince you to keep your behavior a secret. Or maybe going on a shopping spree for things you don’t really even need, in hopes that this will placate the pain of loneliness you feel in the midst of a struggling marriage, all the while keeping the items and the receipt for what you purchased secret from your partner.
A powerful quote by Pastor Ravi Zaccharias very poignantly illustrates the topic of us acting our shame: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
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