Adult Shame

“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” –Mark 7: 21-23

 “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him…Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” –Luke 15: 20B-24A

Occasionally an injured person will come to us with the presenting problem of a recent behavior like adultery, for which he feels such shame he is unwilling or unable to forgive himself. This pain is recent—it must be dealt with in the here and now. Perhaps the person is filled with remorse over his own actions, or someone else may have committed a wrongdoing against him, causing him to feel damaged and full of self-hate. We call this condition “adult shame”.

If the individual has acted in an immoral way, he will need to confess his behavior to the Lord, name it as sin, and ask God’s forgiveness. Several approaches have been used to help the sufferer find Jesus’ healing for his “adult shame”:

  1. Have the adult express his rejecting feelings for himself; as when we ask the adult sufferer of shame from childhood to express his feelings for the child.
  2. Ask the adult sufferer if he understands his negative self-judgments to be sin because he is refusing to accept God’s grace and mercy. If he acknowledges that, have him ask the Lord’s forgiveness for these condemning attitudes.
  3. Help the sufferer enter in imagination to the Crucifixion scene. You can ask the injured one if he is willing to picture himself at the foot of the cross. Tell him to look up and see Jesus suffering there. When the person mentally visualizes the scene, you can instruct him to reach up and place his hands on Jesus’ feet, allowing the Lord Jesus to take up into His Body all the shame he feels. Encourage this to take all the time needed, while asking the sufferer carefully to contemplate the painful, vile, and dirty shame pouring out of his hands onto Jesus’ body…As a variant of this, sometimes we suggest that the person visualize sitting or kneeling at the foot of the cross and placing his hands on the wood, holding them there and letting drops of Jesus’ cleansing blood fall on them.
  4. Instruct the individual to ask that Jesus speak His truth into his heart. Then wait so the person may receive some understanding. At times the wounded one will “hear” or otherwise sense in his spirit a new thought or awareness, which changes his whole perspective and causes relief or joy.
  5. Have the sufferer verbally accept Jesus’ forgiveness, and receive back the part of his heart he has judged, rejected, or disowned.
  6. Suggest that the person verbally ask for Jesus’ love to flood through him, and have him by faith speak words accepting the gift of God’s unconditional acceptance.