Starting in the fall of 2007 until the summer of 2013 this sin-plagued me. No matter how much I tried to put it behind me it kept resurfacing with a vengeance. I thought that I had forgiven myself, but each time my husband used it against me to keep me quiet the same yucky feeling would wash over me and I would remember that I was bad and not good enough. It took me down at the knees so many times. I tried to leave it behind; my husband wouldn’t let me, I wouldn’t let me.
Stupid, worthless, and bad!
I had tried many counselors over the years finally, in 2013 I found one that changed my life. She was so amazing and she could see me. She was for sure an earthly angel to me. She came into my swamp of stupid, worthless, and bad, she held my hand and she slowly led me out of it.
She recognized that shame controlled me. She taught me about it. I still remember the moment when I sat on her couch with a deep recognition that i had so much shame and admitted it. I said, “What am I suppose to do with it?” She smiled at me and handed me a book that would start my journey to a new life. The book was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book would lead me to a deep understanding of shame and how it had controlled me my entire life. It was a game changer.
The First Step-Recognition
Recognizing shame can be a difficult process. I learned that for me shame has physical symptoms and knowing what those are is the fastest way for me to recognize that I am feeling shame. I did not know what these were initially, I had to watch for them very carefully.
I found that I get a pit in my stomache right below my chest in the middle. My shoulders grow heavy. The world starts to move in slow motion, I get trapped in my head, and I become very reactive. If I find myself barking at my kids I know that something is going on for me and I need to take a step back.
Step 2: Practice…Practice…Practice
Once I recognize that I am in shame I have to use the three steps of shame resilience that Brene talks about in her book. (These are in my words…not hers) You can read the exact steps here.
- Slow down, talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend or child that was going through the same experience.
- Tell someone that you trust that you are feeling shame.
- Tell them what happened- shame does not like to be spoken if you tell someone all the sudden shame is no longer as poisonous.
I had to follow these steps over and over again every time I felt shame. I had a shame notebook that I would carry around in my purse and when I would feel shame I would follow these steps. I would write down what happened, call a freind that I trusted, and tell her the story. Sometimes if I was feeling like I was a bad parent I would ask my freind to tell me the opposite. The key was taking the time to work through the steps every time so that brain patterns could become different.
This was a lot of work, but worth every ounce of effort. I still feel shame, but it doesn’t control me like it once did. My exhusband no longer even brings up this sin because it has lost it’s control over me. It is still painful to think about becasue I know that I hurt many people, but I no longer think I am a bad person because of it. I made a mistake and I forgive myself for it.
In 2007 I wanted more than anything to erase this sin from my book of life and pretend like it never happened. I don’t feel that way anymore. I had a beautiful experience that changed the way I think about it. God showed me that my sin had purpose.
I met a beautiful woman who’s husband has a sex addiction. She had been suffering silently for years before finding out what the problem actually was. A good friend that knew about my sin introduced us. This woman had a similar sin and it was eating her alive.
As I walked up to her I could see her breaking heart and tear stained face. The weight of the sin was wearing her down, I could feel her pain. I told her about what I had done with my friends husband. I told her that she was not alone, and that this sin didn’t have to haunt her forever. I told her about shame, and how it controlled me for years. After I was done with my story her story poured out of her. She felt like she was bad, stupid, and worhtless, feelings that I knew all too well. When she finished and her shaking body had calmed a little, I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. It was as if God was whispering into my ear. The voice said, “This is why it had to happen, this is what your sin was about.”
In that moment I understood that God needed me to know what sin felt like. He needed me to know the heatbreak and the sadness and the darkness because then I could really sit with someone else who was suffereing. Then I could help!
My sin had a far greater purpose…so can yours.