The Shame Cycle

Men cycle through shame. Here are words to help you overcome self-defeat.

I am convinced that one of the considerable barriers to men growing closer to God and engaging in their calling is we retain the thought we're unworthy. Most of us see the long list of all the wrong things we have done and conclude we don't measure up to God's standard of holiness. And if we don't measure up to God's standards, which we don't, an inner voice (unworthy self-talk) says God can't, won't, or doesn't want to use you. Add to this that we may even attack the self (intentional self-hijacking) and as a result, we avoid (spiritual-avoidance) church engagement, personal ministry, and leadership in the family. Before you know it, we are actively yet subtly resisting a relationship with God. We live a cycle of shame (unworthy self-talk + self-hijacking + spiritual avoidance), and this keeps us from growing in our relationship with God.


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The anatomy of shame.
The Free Dictionary defines shame as "a painful emotion caused by the belief that one is, or is perceived by others to be, inferior or unworthy of affection or respect because of one's actions, thoughts, circumstances or experiences." Unworthy is a vital word in this definition. Shame can be brought on by your actions (active anger toward a person), your repetitive sinful thoughts (viewing pornography), your current ongoing challenges (divorce or job loss), or suffering you've endured (abuse as a child). Our enemy loves to remind us of our unworthiness, and too often we buy into this cycle. And the shame cycle assaults the soul, mind, and heart and prohibits us from connecting with God because as a result, we believe that we don't deserve him. But there is hope beyond shame, in these three words: love, grace, and freedom.

Love rescues shame.
Often we need to be reminded that God loves us the way we are. This is regarded as unconditional love - to be loved in our current state. Now, this does not infer that God wants us to remain in our current state, but he does love us the way we are. Proof of this is found in Romans 5:7-8. "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It is God's love that was the preemptive blow to the shame cycle in our life. We can have confidence that he see's our state, knows it, and wants to rescue us from it.

Grace defeats shame.
Grace is defined as undeserved favor. Two things I mentioned above are biblically accurate. First, we don't measure up to God's standards. Second, we don't deserve a relationship with him. While these are both true, there is a third truth in Ephesians 2:8. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Our third truth is that God's grace surpasses unworthy self-talk, self-hijacking, and spiritual avoidance. God wants to save us not only from our sin but just as well from the shame cycle in our soul.

Freedom from shame.
To further amplify this point, we can also hold to the fact this was Jesus's mission. He came to set us free from shame. John 10:10 reads, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Jesus' primary purpose in coming was to release us from a prison of unworthiness, not just to make bad actions good, but to help us redirect the intentions of the heart. Contrast Jesus' mission with that of Satan who comes to steal (our joy), kill (remove our freedom) and destroy (keep us tangled up in our sin and convince us of our unworthiness) – hence to live in shame.

Hear this: if you have a relationship with God, he has removed your shame and addressed your sin so that you can walk in grace, freedom, and relationship with him. And, remember today "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).

Reject shame and live in God's love, grace, and freedom and if you want to know more about how God sees you today, read Ephesians chapters 1-2.

Vince Miller Founder of ResoluteVince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.