Shame and What to Do About It

By Dan Blair, marriage counselor and family counselor

I look back over my life and I think we can all say we have made major mistakes. We have weaknesses and flaws. I think about the major mistakes in my life and how it has impacted me. To talk about shame, I’d like to start with the NRA in the Bible:

Not good enough



Adam and Eve encountered this as part of the consequences of sin in the garden of Eden. There now was toil but with thistles and thorns, they were kicked ouf of the garden, and they felt alone, longing for a restored relationship.

These emotions and other similar emotions are painful. We tend to respond with three levels of protective behavior.

Level 1
Adopt the American way and blame somebody. As long as I blame somebody I don’t have to look at my own responsibility.

Bury the feelings to the point we don’t even know it exists. We deny they are an issue.

Compartmentalize it. Focus on work, family, and distractions. Maybe we push ourselves a little too hard to try to make up for it.

Level 2
Anger can give you a sense of control when you feel out of control, and it can numb painful or disturbing emotions.

Binging? Excessive focus on something else to escape and to deal with anger, fear and shame. Anger? Alcohol? Porn?

Crapulence which is binging on an activity to the point of feeling sick or even to the point of self-harm.

Level 3




Extreme. All or nothing thinking. Something or someone is all good or all bad. Inflexible.
Expectations of yourself and others. Negative. Self-critical.
Evasive. Instead of taking responsibility for own emotions I try to change others.


Anger to aggression
Fear to anxiety
Sadness to depression
Guilt to shame

Let’s address these three areas with some “F words:” Functioning, Facts and Feelings.


Accomplishment – meaningful work that makes you feel good about it after you did it

Connection with others, faith, family, friends, nature, a cause, a community, anything bigger than just yourself

Enjoyment – healthy and energy-giving, not something that brings you down or regret

Self-care – sleeping, eating and exercise, paying attention to what you feel and need, and that is in your control

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Romans 12:1).

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15a). Remember before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he took the time to cry with his friends. You may be strong but there is no strength where there are no tears (ojo).

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on” (Hebrews 10:25).

The writer in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 talks about taking care of yourself and that God deals out joy in the present, the now, from gratitude and good things. (The writer also suggests it’s useless to brood). In Ecclesiastes 9 he adds, “Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

This allowed Paul in the Bible to say, “I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift” (2 Cor. 12:9).


When evaluating a thought process, “THINK.”

True – is the thought the most accurate?

Helpful – does the thought help me in some way?

Inspire – does the thought give you energy?

Necessary – does the thought really make a difference?

Kind – is the thought come from love?

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Phil. 4:8).

“People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God” (Matt. 4:4).


After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Gal. 3:3)

Stress responses where negative thinking is reinforced by the perception of threat caused by:


Fixing (the unfixable, or when it is not wanted)
Figuring it out (dwelling over and over)
Forgetting it (continued attempts to forget something that the brain believes is a threat)

Instead, manage the emotions.

Acceptance of reality, that feelings and situations are real, but not what we might make them to be. Make sense of the emotions, because they are there for a reason. Be kind to yourself instead of trying to make them go away.

Breathing techniques. The Hebraic word for love in the Bible is ialeph,ayin, which is pronounced by simply breathing, which reduces stress hormones and affects the whole body.

Calming techniques, focusing on one or all of your five senses and immersing yourself in the experience.

Distraction techniques (healthy).

Expressive ways to experience emotions and adapt to them, i.e. talking, writing, art, music, or working out.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Finally, emotional pain is created in the context of relationships, and is healed in the context of healthy relationships. Ask yourself, which of the levels of behaviors to you identify with? If you didn’t do that, what would you be afraid of?

Shame is also known as fear. What defeats fear? Love.

Acceptance and grace

Sense – making sense of the emotions so you don’t feel like you are weird, crazy, or unacceptable as a human.

Kindness to self and others

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another. . . There is no fear in love” (I John 4:11).

Conflicts in relationships. can then be addressed with more “F” words:

Facts may not change feelings, but feelings aren’t facts. So you may not have to take it personally.

Faults are the responsibility of the individual, not someone else pointing them out.

Feelings are the way to show care or receive care.

Future options reflecting the needs of each person is more productive than dwelling on the past.

More “F Words”

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment