How Does Shame Enter Our Life? – Part 1

We must learn we can’t judge ourselves in accordance with the standards of self or others.  We need to judge ourselves by the standards of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT), Paul says this:

“Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are!  But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!”

Measure Up to StandardsToxic shame is a tactic of Satan.  God does not use shame.  He uses conviction in the life of the believer, never condemnation.  Therefore, all toxic shame is dangerous and needs to be dealt with decisively.  Here is the first of three ways shame enters into a person’s life.  I will present the reaming two ways in my next posting.

  • Not measuring up to standards. We are born into a family and a world that is filled with expectations and pressures.  We learn to measure ourselves by a certain level or standard.  Shame is produced when we feel unable to live up to our own standards or the standards of those around us, especially our parents.  This effort to live up to standards can lead to identity dependence and people pleasing, or living life based on a determination to “follow the rules.”
    • Self-Imposed Standards. Through our life experiences, upbringing, and other acquired beliefs, we build an ideal in our own mind for the standards we should attain.  Sometimes these are unrealistic or are based on standards of the world around us and the people in our life.  It is in our broken, human nature to impose the same standards on others that we impose on ourselves.  Therefore, when we or others don’t measure up, we often become critical, judgmental, or even demeaning.
    • Other People’s Standards. We often feel shame when rejected, criticized, or put down by others if we don’t fit their arbitrary criteria of what is “acceptable.”  We often don’t realize that failing to measure up to another person’s particular set of standards doesn’t necessarily mean we have done something wrong.  Just the same, we can feel good about ourselves when we do succeed at measuring up to those standards (which can lead to pride and arrogance), and we can be devastated when we fail to measure up to others’ standards (which can expose shame and brokenness).
    • Family System Standards. In every family, spoken and unspoken rules dictate acceptable standards.  The standards may be extremely dysfunctional, skewed, or exceedingly unrealistic.  If we’ve lived by toxic family standards, we’ll be bound to feel shame as a result.
    • Cultural Standards. We are born with a desire to be accepted by the larger population around us.  Therefore, if we don’t measure up to what the world or society presents as acceptable, we can carry a sense of shame.  Since culture shifts from generation to generation on what is acceptable, we may feel shame for having things in our life that are not currently (or no longer) accepted, trendy, or popular.
    • Religious Standards. A church or groups of “Christians” can promote a set of standards for conduct that emphasizes outward behaviors – rule following, appearance, religiousness – more than the heart.  They can present a form of God that leaves us thinking we are unacceptable to Him unless we can be what those people say we should be.  When we don’t live up to those standards, we can feel rejected by that group and thus feel we are being rejected by God.

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