I have done a lot of things in my life that I’m embarrassed about, that I wouldn’t want people to know. And I have hurt people in ways that still make me cringe.

That’s what guilt is. It is a realistic emotion based off a fact that you did something you shouldn’t have done.

But then there’s shame.

Shame is an entity all on its own.

Shame lingers.

Shame sticks.

Shame keeps you feeling badly about something either long after the situation has been resolved, or worse than the situation warranted.

And where guilt is an internal check of the spirit, shame tends to be an external slap on the hand by others, which can make it even harder to shake.

I know of someone who was told some horrible things by what he had considered a friend. It’s been a few weeks and he feels badly that he hasn’t moved on yet.

I can think of two incidents where things were said to me, both years ago, and when I least expect it, the memory of those words come flashing across my mind and pierce my heart as if I’m in those rooms again, with those people again, hearing those tearing-my-soul-open words for the first time.

Years ago, and I can still feel the heated shame. It’s hard to just move on and let go when you haven’t been apologized to, when you’ve been labeled, branded.

I walked away from an important community, in part, because of nine, simple, pointed words that were said to me.  I was (and still am) so shamed by those words, I cannot even look at the imparter.

I have been banned from something because of a few words that I apologized for repeatedly and have not been shown grace over. I was so shamed by this pronouncement on my character, I’ve had to cut ties.

Shame sticks. Harsh words cut through bone and marrow and sink to the bottom of one’s soul as if they have an anchor attached to them.

I’ve done all I know to do.

I’ve prayed for forgiveness. I’ve asked for forgiveness. I’ve put distance. I’ve asked the Spirit to help me learn and change from what I’ve done (and I believe I have). I’ve asked the Spirit to help me forget. I’ve asked the Spirit to help me move on.

(And he has. I can go weeks and weeks now without even remembering these things happened, which I’m so grateful for. But still.)

I think what it comes down to, for me, is that my lifelong struggle will be this: til the day I die, I will have to fight for my heart to believe only Jesus’ pure, loving thoughts about me and not a fellow sinning human’s perception of me.

I am human. I say things that are hurtful and thoughtless that I regret. I do things that are selfish and unbecoming that I regret. I mess up every day.

But so does everyone else. (I seem to forget this constantly.)

And even if I were the only one to slip up, there’d be grace. And this is what Jesus came for. He wouldn’t have had to come if we all were perfect.

But I also believe that shame weighs us down, eats away at our time, keeps our eyes to the ground.

Are you feeling shamed by anyone today, because of your words, because of your choices? Have you asked God for forgiveness? Have you owned your part and asked the other party for forgiveness?

Then it is done. Let me say that again: IT IS DONE. And what you are holding onto are just ratty fragments of pain and poison that are holding you back.

Ask God today to set you free.  In bits and pieces, and over days and weeks and months, he will.

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. –Isaiah 61:7 (MSG)

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