Being horrified by past sinful actions is fine, in its proper mode, but should not be dwelt upon for one primary reason: the past is not the present. We must learn how not to take a snapshot of that past event and then define ourselves by that tragic portrait. Shame is a very poor motivator. When what we need is to forsake the distorted ways of thinking, that led us to misbehave, the last force we need is shame. Think about motivational speakers for a moment. What is their main intent? They want to elevate a crowd from a wrong way of thinking into a right and good and positive way of thinking.
Now, imagine that this motivational speaker began shaming his audience, leading them to feel horrible about themselves because of their past distorted ways of thinking, causing them to feel worthless, unloved, and hopeless. Would that motivate them into a better frame of mind? No! Shame, when lodged in the heart or mind, only cripples its victim. Shame belittles the humanity of its victim. Shame dehumanizes its victim. Shame constantly whispers in the ear of its victim, "You not only did something bad, but you are something bad." Shame wants to define you by what you did. Shame does not want you to live a new life, think new thoughts, maintain a positive perspective. Shame wants to destroy you. Shame will not be satisfied until you are lifeless, useless, and utterly hopeless.
I had to learn a valuable and life-changing truth-lesson about shame: I could either allow shame to permanently cripple me or I could shake loose of shame's grip once and for all. I chose to shake loose of its grip. But this took several years -- years -- and I had help. There was no way possible I could get rid of the stranglehold of shame without a proper perspective, a perspective that I did not yet possess, but one I had to learn and put into practice even a full year after I learned how to do so. How did I do that? I accomplished this, in time, through receiving forgiveness.
You may think that this seems a bit trite and too easy of an answer. Well, when you have done something wrong, especially when that wrong becomes public knowledge, the last state of mind that you want is to be forgiven, because your inner pride will want to atone for your wrongdoing. You wrestle within yourself: If I can just make up for it, somehow, then I will be redeemed. But there are situations in which you cannot make up for a wrongdoing. In my particular situation, I merely had to be forgiven, but I also had to receive that forgiveness. My real trouble began when I could not receive forgiveness. I heard that I was forgiven. I knew intellectually and believed that I was forgiven. But I could not forgive myself for my wrongdoing. My self-perception was at an all-time low.
Being horrified by my past is okay. Being horrified by your past is okay. None of us should be proud of causing others pain and turmoil and heartache. Be horrified! But the only way you will ever avoid the same scenario over and over again in the future is if you learn why you did what you did, for no action happens in a vacuum, and then understand how to think properly. This will require that you seek help, whether counseling or therapy, and believe me when I confess to you that you will treasure that help more than you can convey. Therapy is not for weirdos. Therapy is for everyone.
Shame has a proper place. Shame can initially inform us that our bad words or attitudes or actions are wrong. But shame should not be allowed to linger, causing you to think that you are a monster, especially not when one considers that Jesus Himself endured a cruel cross for our sake, while despising shame, and conquered sin, death, and hell itself. (Heb. 12:1, 2) Once shame has run its course, once shame has served its initial purpose, do not allow shame, for your own sake, to demean you, and control your life. If you allow shame this control, it will seek to hinder healthy thinking, a healthy self-perception and, ultimately, to defeat you. Shame will tell you that you don't have a choice: you are a horrible person and unworthy of love and respect. But shame is a filthy liar. Believe the truth. God loves us sinners and wants our salvation: body, soul, heart and mind.
This post was written by William Birch. You can find his original post here: http://www.williambirch.net/2016/04/horrified-by-your-past.html