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How to Overcome Shame | What It Is and 5 Ways to Walk in Freedom

How do you overcome shame? First, understand shame is a false name. It is a counterfeit identity. Then, believe your identity in Jesus. 

Feelings of shame weigh heavily on each of us in different seasons of life. Maybe you know God has forgiven you, but feelings of shame are still attached to you like a heavy backpack you can’t take off. You experience pain and hide your guilt and shame because it is more than you can bear. That feeling of needing to hide is not from God. 

The Bible says Satan is an accuser (Rev 12:10). This means he accuses you of what you’ve done in your past, putting guilt upon you. Then he labels you with a false name associated with your past; that’s shame. How do you overcome shame? By believing what God says about you more than what the enemy says. 

What Is Shame?

Shame is a tactic the enemy uses to keep you from living the abundant life Jesus promises. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that Jesus took on the sin the enemy uses to put shame upon you. God says you are righteous, and shame has no place in your life! 

  • Guilt is an accusation about something you have done: “I did something bad.”
  • Shame is an accusation about who you are: “I am bad.”
  • Both are conceived by rebellion and overcome by the blood of Jesus. 
  • Both are tactics the enemy uses to hold you back from the freedom you’ve been given in Jesus.

Shame never comes from God; it always comes from Satan and is a form of captivity.

John 10:10 says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus broke the power of shame and guilt through His death and resurrection. You don’t have to hide in shame. In Christ, God declares you completely innocent and separates you from your sin as far as the East is from the West. 

The enemy uses feelings of shame to hold you back. If you say to yourself…

“I am …”

  • “A failure”
  • “An addict”
  • “Undeserving”
  • “Disgusting”
  • “Unforgivable”
  • “Bad”

…you are battling shame: a false name.

God has a promise for you to grasp onto today. Micah 7:19 says, “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

The Compassion of Christ to Separate You from Your Shame

God is compassionate. He doesn’t just forgive you once and say, “Okay, now don’t mess up again.” He casts your iniquities into the depths of the sea and doesn’t hold them in your account, waiting for you to pay them off. He declares you are completely debt-free in Jesus. 

“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”—1 John 2:2

This is important to understand…

  • God sees your shame but calls you by your name. He doesn’t hold your past against you. 
  • Satan knows your name but calls you by your shame. He wants you to put on a false identity, one from your past. 

In Christ…

  • Failure is not your identity.
  • Addiction is not your identity.
  • Unforgiven is not your identity. 

In Christ, you are given a new identity, one that is pleasing to God and free from guilt and shame!

It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He convicts us of our sin so that we turn to Jesus. Satan condemns us for our sin to keep us from Jesus. 

Conviction vs. Condemnation

Conviction is from God. It is the realization of sin and understanding its impact. God convicts you of it so you will hand it over to Him and be free from the shame it can bring. 

Condemnation is from the enemy. It is a “bringing up of your past” so that you ruminate about it and beat yourself up over it. This is a tactic to hold you back from the joy and abundance Jesus has made available to you now. 

How to Overcome Feelings of Shame

Feet bound by a chain and a ball with the word shame written on it, symbolizing the burden of shame that hinders us.

The Bible says Satan is the father of lies. Jesus said in John 8:44, “… He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

The accusations and feelings of shame the enemy puts on you are meant to steal your joy, purpose, and identity. But Jesus said, “…there is no truth in him.” This is how to overcome feelings of shame: to identify the lie about who you are and start living in the truth of whose you are!

Satan makes an accusation and says you don’t deserve God’s grace, so you must work it off. You try harder and harder to be better and better. And yet, in your effort, you continue to dig a hole you can’t get out of. This is when it is time to reach out and take the hand of the One who is stronger—the only One who can redeem and carry you to a place of freedom, the only One who can help you overcome shame. 

Here are 5 ways to overcome shame and walk in the freedom of forgiveness God has for you in Jesus…

  • Decide to do something with your shame. 

Doing nothing and hiding from feelings of shame creates toxicity in your soul and body. In Psalm 38:3-4, David wrote, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” His shame became so heavy that it impacted him emotionally, mentally, and physically. David decided to give his feelings of shame to God when he was made aware of them and was able to move forward in His purpose. 

Shame is not yours to carry. Decide today you will overcome shame using the Word of God so that it doesn’t rob you of emotional or physical health any longer.  

  • Write down the feelings of shame and destroy them. 

Visiting feelings of shame is not fun, but it can be freeing when you write them out and destroy them. What are the things that cause you to feel shame? Is it lust, drugs, divorce, wayward children, abuse, painful words, parents, or your past? Write these things down on paper and rip them up, throw them into a fire, or flush them down the toilet. 

Feelings of shame are false identities that must be dealt with before they destroy you.  

  • Believe God’s Word and forgive yourself. 

Maybe this seems too simplistic. Maybe you’ve said, “I know God has forgiven me; I read it in the Word, but I just can’t forgive myself.” The truth is, to fully walk in the freedom of forgiveness and overcome shame, you must believe what God says about you over what the enemy, others, or even your own thoughts say about you. 

You may know you are forgiven theologically and quote verses instantly, but you struggle to forgive yourself. People say what they know, but they do what they believe. Decide today to believe God’s Word and forgive yourself. 

  • Shift your focus to Jesus and others rather than yourself.

Feelings of shame focus on the self. When something happens to us that causes pain or shame, we are robbed of joy. We turn our focus inward and lose focus on the only One who can redeem and restore what was stolen. We begin self-loathing, which is self-idolatry in disguise. 

We tend to wallow in self-pity rather than worship. Decide to lift up praises, no matter your circumstances. 

  • Start meditating on your identity in Jesus.

As we’ve learned, overcoming shame starts with identifying the false identities you’ve taken on and replacing them with truth from God’s Word. In Christ, you are forgiven, blessed, given a new identity, made a co-heir with Jesus, given the Spirit, and chosen for a purpose. 

The lies are always louder than the truth. Decide to get quiet with God, discover and write down your identity in Jesus, and listen to His still, small voice. 

The Key Takeaway

Shame is a false identity that the enemy wants you to operate out of. To overcome shame, you must understand that God’s grace applies to you. Identify the lie and embrace what God’s Word says about you.