Leaving Shame Behind

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“Many of you start your story by saying, “It has taken me a year (or more) to get the courage to speak up about this. I am so ashamed of letting myself stay in this abuse for so long!” As you describe the hell you’ve been living in, I keep hearing that theme repeated: I should have seen. I should have stopped it. I should have been better, sexier, more fun, a better housekeeper, more submissive.

I work hard to make sure I don’t heap further harm on you. I know you’re not here because you speak in Pink and he speaks in Blue. You’re not looking for help because you can’t resolve conflict, or there are patterns of unforgiveness, rejection, abandonment, or poor relational patterns. While those are certainly a part of your experience, you are here because you are being abused. It’s a very different mindset than simply not getting along or knowing how to compromise.

I would never insinuate that you could be doing more to appease him, or that you should have seen the red flags a long time ago. Or should have known better. Or did something to cause this. I know you already feel overly burdened by shame, and not a day goes by that the narcissist or abuser is not blaming you.
The thing is, it’s never okay to power-over another person, to squash and suck the life out of them. Never. And your spouse chooses – yes, he chooses! – to mistreat you out of his own free will. You don’t make him do anything. The blame is not on you.

I know you feel like it is. You do feel the shame of not stopping it. I’m sure you’re embarrassed to tell people what you let yourself endure. You would never have chosen to settle for this if you had seen it coming!

In actuality, your resilience, loyalty, and long suffering are incredible strengths. You are not to blame for what he has done to you. Those same character qualities will be the strengths you will draw upon to heal, as well, especially as you see in greater clarity who you really are. Your story is what it is. Don’t let the shame keep you from changing the next chapter.

What have you felt the most shame about? Any chance that shame is tied to deceptions or assumptions you’ve agreed with that aren’t true?

This Week’s Question:

The last 5 years of my 25 year marriage I have been wrestling with and researching how to come to terms with the fact I am in an emotionally abuse relationship. I have sought out Pastors, Christian counseling, books, articles and shared them with my husband and all of the people we counseled with. No one even addressed or saw this issue in our marriage. I have come to terms with my husband will not seek help and we will keep going in the same cycle unless I break it. The one topic within this issue I don’t see a lot of advice on is how do I talk to my Pastor, or church leaders, family and friends what I am going through or I have left this relationship? It is already so difficult to be shunned emotionally by your spouse, how do you avoid that from those around you that you are looking to find support from also?

Sharmen’s Answer:

I know how difficult that place is from personal experience. I learned that standing up against sin and abuse is often a very lonely road. However, God has a vested interest in your testimony, and much of how you walk through this will be simply through His grace enabling you to be a light to those around you. Some things to consider: Everyone is broken and few take the courage to truly engage in others’ broken stories. Those who emotionally abandon you in the church are choosing not to be Jesus to you, and to miss out on seeing what he is doing in/through you. If they are complicit in minimizing the abuse, it matters to God that they are also minimizing his design for marriage to be a picture of Him to the world. He sees, he knows, and he will deal with their own hearts as he sees fit. As you try to talk to them, you will probably find a lot of resistance to calling the abuse for what it is. Sometimes the best thing to say is, “I know you are not seeing what I see because you aren’t living in this space, but it hasn’t honored God and he is calling me to be a better light for him.” And then ask them to keep praying for you and your family, for the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it… You may have to grieve lost relationships on so many levels, but God will also rise up new and deeper ones…. and will carry you through all of it.

I won’t tell you that any of this is easy or that it passes quickly. But, as you do what God puts before you to do, you will see him go before you to defend and protect you…