Overcoming Shame

Healing & Practical Management to Improve Relationships

What Is Shame?

Compensating for Shame

Brenda knows that she would benefit from connection with a home church but is reluctant to take the first step because she feels that she will be judged. She is single with 3 children and does not have the funds to buy clothes she would want to wear to church. She also feels she does not have anything to offer the church. When her friend Patty attempts to talk to her about attending church she dismisses the conversation, stating that the weekend is her time to catch up with housework. Brenda appears to be using shame to block her from her blessings. How would you support Brenda with her religious/spiritual journey? How can we support each other with our issues of shame?


Shame can be defined as a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises from the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper. The truth is, how deeply you feel ashamed often has little to do with your worth or what you have done wrong.

We have all experienced shame, but it can be hard for us to admit it. Refusing to deal with shame issues can be the root of our problems. When we avoid and ignore our negative feelings and actions, they only become worse. Our ‘Inner Critic’ tells us that we are a bad person, that we are worthless and that we have no value. When that happens, we try as best as we can to hide our true self. When we are not authentic, it is hard to attain healthy relationships.

Women are quicker to feel humiliated than men, and adolescents feel shame more intensely than adults do. As a result, women and adolescents are more susceptible to the negative effects of shame, such as low self-esteem and depression.

Healthy Shame

Healthy shame can also exist. Shame can be healthy when it causes you to have humility, allows you to laugh at yourself, makes you humble, or teaches you about boundaries. Without at least a little bit of shame, people would have trouble measuring the effects of their behaviors on other people. Healthy shame also keeps us in check, it helps us behave in ways to exist as social beings. such as obeying the laws.

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

Philippians 3:19

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I hold fast to your statutes, LORD; do not let me be put to shame.

Psalm 119:31

Categories of Shame Behavior

In the academic book Shame, published by Oxford University Press, the authors identified four categories of shame behaviors:

The Impact of Shame

If you’ve experienced shame, you probably know that it can have a negative impact on your life. Here are some of the potential negative impacts you might experience because of shame.

As you can see, most of the impacts of shame lead to behaviors that create a vicious cycle. You feel shame, which causes you to engage in behaviors that can lead to more feelings of shame. These behaviors can also be detrimental in and of themselves, creating potential physical or mental health problems on their own.

  • Feel flawed or as if something is wrong with you.

  • Can lead to social withdrawal, especially when it is a result of public stigma.

  • May cause you to become defensive and shame others in return.

  • May lead you to bully others if you have been bullied yourself.

  • May cause you to inflate your ego or to hide. (narcissistic personality)

  • May lead or contribute to physical health problems.

Confronting Shame Victoriously

The key to breaking the power of pride-fueled shame is the superior power of humility-fueled faith in the work of Christ and the promises of Christ. Shame pronounces us guilty and deficient. Jesus pronounces us guiltless and promises that his grace will be sufficient for us in all our weaknesses. II Corinthians 12:9-10