Grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit with us a spell for this chat with special guest interviewer, Liz Curtis Higgs and Denise Pass, as they discuss some questions Liz has for Denise to celebrate the release of her book, Shame Off You. Liz is the author of 37 books, with 4.6 million copies in print and has a heart to serve God’s people through the Word of God. You can visit her website here.
Note from Denise:
Y’all, I had the incredible privilege of visiting with Liz Curtis Higgs last week. She blessed my socks off by asking if she could interview me so I could post it on my website. What a sweet servant of Christ to take time out of her massively busy schedule to visit with me and talk about our great God. Thank you, Liz! Because I am living an authentic shame-free life, y’all, it was supposed to be on my podcast, but (due to user error) it is just going to be a blog post. So, no off roadin’ in this post, just the original questions and answers. But such a blessing to hang out with her – can I just say? I hope you are blessed, too. Don’t forget to get your copy of Shame Off You!
I hope you will enjoy Liz’ questions and my answers and most importantly, I hope you will walk in the honor and liberty Christ has for you!
This is Liz Curtis Higgs and I am here today with Denise Pass, to discuss her new book, “Shame Off You”, scheduled to release this month on August 21, 2018. Well, Denise, I am so happy to be here with you today!
Thank you so much, Liz! It is such an honor!
I have been so excited about this book since our last podcast we did together, because it is such a needed message right now in our culture.
Thank you so much. Yes. The effects of shame are epidemic. And sadly, people aren’t often aware of its presence and don’t really have the tools to dismiss shame from their lives.
How would you define shame? And how is it different than guilt?
To answer your first question – what is shame? – Shame is a spectrum of feelings, from mild embarrassment to feeling like an outcast, or being buried in humiliation for the circumstances you find yourself in – but all arising from our perceived worth in man’s eyes or in our own.
Shame is a feeling of inferiority formed by rejection and cultivated by comparison. We would not feel shame if we were accepted unconditionally, right? Shame is like a residue on our souls – humiliation as a consequence of sin or man’s judgement on us. It is an indicator that we are not enough or that we did something wrong.
Shame arises from other people’s perception of us – especially played out in public, but shame can also come from guilt we feel for sins we have done.
As I mention in my book, shame is a consequence of living in a fallen world. When sin entered the world, so did shame – and guilt.
To answer the second part of your question – the difference between guilt and shame, I would say the key difference is that guilt condemns an action or behavior, whereas shame condemns us as a person. Brené Brown puts it so well, “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior.”
Shame is an assault on the very core of who we are – it assassinates our character, tries to label and define us and holds us hostage to its grip on the grim reality that we are not enough.
Guilt is right there beside shame, and while there are overlapping definitions of both shame and guilt, practically speaking, I would say shame refers to feelings you have about yourself, focused on how you appear to others and guilt is more about feelings arising from something you did to someone else. This said, feelings of guilt arise from shame – whether those feelings of shame are legitimate or not.
What was your first experience with shame? How did it make you feel? think? behave?
Oh my. Who can tell, right? We don’t often know we are even dealing with shame until afterwards, but the earliest memory I have is when I was around 6 years old and family members had brought me to a nude beach. Instinctively, we know when something is not right. God gave us conscience – such a gift – to convict us through His Holy Spirit of sin and righteousness. But there that day, I felt exposed and out of control. I looked down at the sand, trying to avoid the naked sea of humanity before me and felt intense shame. I did not want to be there. Did not want to be so exposed. I walked down the beach trying to cover myself.
The irony was that the people all around me felt freedom that day on the beach – and I felt shame. And I carried that shame forward. I had to find a way to cover myself, to cover my shame in this life whenever I faced it. I never wanted to be so exposed again; I did not want anyone to see my flaws or to see what I did not want to show. The cycle of shame had begun in my life, only I did not know it.
You wrote, “We’re only human. It’s our weakness–and our strength.” Can you expand on that?
First I would say we are incredibly blessed to have life. And we were made in the image of God! And as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit – God – living inside of us. Amazing. And God is our strength.
There is that saying – To err is human, to forgive, divine. The expectation is that we are going to mess up – to sin. Does not seem like much strength in that, right? But this place of weakness can become our strength as we rely on God.
This question reminds me of a job interview when I was asked to tell what my strengths are and the LORD quickened my heart with this response – Christ is my strength. I have no strength except Christ – He is my strength. Anything good in me is Christ alone.” To live is Christ. If we live as a child of God, our weakness becomes our strengths. Humans waste so much time trying to perfect the messes we are, to hide the shame of our imperfections – but there is such freedom in acknowledging our weaknesses, so we can be set free from them by the grace of God.
Is shame ever a good thing?
Oh goodness. I have definitely had people try to tell me there is nothing good in it – it is of the devil. And, it is. He is the accuser of the brethren and one of the chief sources of shame. But our great God is in the business of using what was meant for evil for good. Shame gets our attention that something is wrong. It can lead us to repentance – the kind of sorrow for our sin that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10, that leads us to genuine repentance:
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (ESV)
As I mention in my book, (Chapter two – Shame’s Condemnation), we all want to avoid shame, but sometimes shame is a good indicator that we need to examine our hearts. Maybe there is something askew that needs to be addressed. Addressing shame opens the door of possibility for redemption through shame, where hiding shame just causes shame to grow. We can’t overcome shame unless we know what we are aiming at. Shame is best defeated when we acknowledge the elephant in the room and address it biblically and lovingly.
We don’t have to fear shame. We just need to be able to examine it biblically without being put off by it.
It’s easy to confuse condemnation and conviction. How can we discern the difference, and why does it matter?
This is such an important question, Liz. It matters so much that we know the difference between condemnation and conviction because if we do not know how to discern between condemnation and conviction, we live defeated lives, but if we know the difference, we can rise above shame and live on mission for God.
It can be confusing to differentiate between condemnation and conviction because there might be some truth in the accusation on our souls. We might feel guilty because we own some of the blame. But condemnation does not offer a redemptive side. It labels us. Conviction reminds us of the higher ground Christ has called us to.
Condemnation is based on works, whereas conviction is based on relationship. We want to respond to feelings of conviction because we love God and He is our LORD. He did not die on a cross so we would remain in sin or shame. He has so much more in mind for us.
Condemnation does not fit a Christian and shame can’t reach a forgiven soul. We just need to bring the shame to God and His word and let the Holy Spirit teach us what we need to learn from it, then let it go.
How is our worth defined in Christ, rather than in our performance?
We tend to get our worth from our identity, which leads us to an identity crisis. When our worth is based upon our performance, it will ebb and flow. One day we will feel good about ourselves and the next day we could despair, with shame as our taskmaster trying to get us to perform our way to a higher place of worth. Shame has a way of making us feel inferior. We bear a label that hurts too much to wear. Self-worth can then become performance-based as we try to remove our invisible label. We seek to convince our souls that we are enough, based on our achievements. This is not a fun way to live and not what God intended.
Christ defined our worth by leaving Heaven to come and die for us. Even though we were enemies of His! The life of God – in the flesh – laid down for His shame-filled people. In Christ, our worth could never be based on performance because Christ alone defines our worth. With His blood, He covered every single transgression and communicated to our souls that His love was so great for us that He would die on our behalf. For every single sin and shame.
Simply said, Christ is our worth. We are now one in Christ. Paul, too, revealed to the Galatian church that this identity of ours is in Christ alone: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
In Shame Off You, you’ve included many powerful stories from your own journey of overcoming shame. Could you share one?
Oh, I could share many . . . too many. I identify with Lucille Ball on that episode in the chocolate factory where she ended up having to eat most of the chocolate because she could not keep up. I have had plenty of embarrassing moments in my life that produced shame, and I share many of these hilarious moments in my book, but I have also encountered the paralyzing, sorrowful times that left me broken and shattered with shards of shame too big to think of overcoming. But the one story that stands out to me the most is the shame I felt standing in the courtroom during the 5-year long court battle following the revelation of my now ex-husband being a sex offender. The pain of being in court really cannot be put into words, but one day in particular, as I was standing in court and felt the sting of asthma squeezing my chest, I encountered God in a way I did not expect. The scorn and shame I felt as several former family members were all suing me in court was so deep, I felt I could have died. And I actually had a close encounter with death from the exhaustion and pneumonia after the court proceedings were done.
I’d like to share this moment from my book, if I could – this is from chapter 5 “Shame’s Reach”, page 87-88:
“Standing in the family courtroom, facing the judge with my former in-laws right behind me, the stares and judgment from those accusing me made me feel like the adulterous woman must have felt surrounded by her accusers. Their piercing gaze burned a hole in my back. My clouded brain was burdened with excessive information, and I was filled with anxiety as I walked up to the witness stand.
I tried to grasp the intent behind their line of questioning. Constantly needing to be prepared with an answer to the deeply probing questions, I wished I could disappear. Shame stifled my breathing, and asthma resurfaced with the familiar stabbing in my chest. Through the haze of dizziness, sweaty palms, and skipping heartbeats, I tried to focus and set aside the shame I felt as the eyes of the courtroom were all upon me. The pain of living with the horror of the revelation of sexual abuse in our home was debilitating. Wondering who all knew our story and what version they knew just magnified the pain. But it was an entirely different matter to be in a position of having the greatest sorrow of your life exploited in a court of law for the advantage of the one who caused all your pain. False accusations hurled at me in an attempt to gain the upper hand in a visitation lawsuit caused intense anxiety and suffering while I tried to hold on, help my children heal, and continue to home educate my children.
Shame from visitations by police and social services and the dreaded ringing of the doorbell invaded our privacy and put us all in shock. Did the neighbors see the police car pull up to our door? Then there were the never-ending appointments with counselors that sometimes inflicted even more pain—heartrending new revelations and endless tears that break a mother’s heart in the middle of the night. I tried to make the counseling appointment experience a fun one—snacks for us all while we waited for our counseling—and mama gained weight. I wasn’t the one on trial, but during the court proceedings that filled five years of my life, the other side attempted to use shame and slander about me to produce a favorable outcome for their client.
This is what public shaming does. It influences the crowd in an attempt to condemn the object of shame. But in the midst of that broken place, when I cried out from the rubble of shame covering me so deeply, a still small voice reminded me that my pain and shame in the courtroom was part of a mission to protect my children. Would I serve the Lord in this place? Would I count the suffering as a blessing if I achieved the objective of honoring their wishes and protecting them? Yes. Yes, I would.”
What would a Shame Off You life look like?
Oh, it’s beautiful. And it’s freedom. We are no longer held back by man’s opinion or even our own. We run to God for truth and we don’t let shame hold us back from discovering our flaws. We know we have them. But we don’t flaunt them, either. Shame Off You is not about a brazen life of sin, but an abundant life free of guilt, where we learn to walk in truth, humility and grace and live on a cycle of redemption.
What steps do you recommend for letting go of shame?
First, I recommend a different culture. We live in a culture of shame. We have been trained to try to extinguish shame in the wrong way. Deny it. Hide it. Blame someone else. But hiding shame does not heal it.
Once we are willing to expose the shame in our lives, we need to examine the roots of shame – you know, the real reason behind our shame, and decide which route we are going to take to remove that shame. The faulty methods we used to use will be hard to let go of, on what I call the cycle of shame, which includes a progression from Condemnation to Comparison, then Crisis and finally Commitment.
But the 4 R’s of the cycle of Redemption helps us to respond to shame biblically – Revelation – Reflection – Repentance – Restoration.
Ultimately, I utilize a three-pronged biblical approach for processing every shame. Through Truth, Humility and Grace we can examine each and every shame and let it go. The Scripture behind this concept is Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Shame will not vanish with pride. But what if we were to examine shame instead of being put off by it?
The biblical tools for shame removal are introduced near the end of chapter two, “Shame’s Condemnation”. I would like to read that section now:
Through truth, we ask God to reveal if there is any truth in the accusation of shame knocking on the door of our minds.
Shame keeps us in bondage, but the truth sets us free. Yielding our perspective and submitting to truth, we step out of shame and into freedom. At first it is hard to even consider if any of the shame fits. We don’t want to acknowledge its presence long enough to discover if there is any truth we need to receive. But shutting down shame without examination doesn’t heal us. Maybe there is a component of the shame that we need to own. This does not mean we are defined by shame. Rather, it means when we acknowledge our weakness the shame dissolves as we apply God’s truth to the presence of shame in our lives. God removes shame through truth when we are willing to be honest and teachable rather than defensive and prideful. Truth roots out shame: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV).
Through humility, we recognize that we are capable of shameful deeds. We understand that there is nothing good in us except Christ alone: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NIV). Even when we have determined that the shame does not fit us this time, we are humble enough to pause and consider if it does and thank God and give Him the glory when it doesn’t. Keenly aware that we are capable of inviting shame into our lives, we thank God that He has removed it from us.
Through truth and humility, we ask for and receive the grace of God for what we need to learn from shame and gain the ability to filter out and let go of what we don’t need. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and we rejoice that God loves us enough to reveal both counterfeit and legitimate shame. And His grace is sufficient for us. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”( 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV).
The beautiful thing about recognizing our shame and its ugly roots is also seeing the deliverance of our great God who does not leave us in shame but delivers us from its prison. Examining the root of shame helps us deal with it biblically to:
- Uncover the shame we have concealed to begin to heal emotionally.
- Discover the hidden shame revealed to begin to deal with it biblically.
- Recover the original honor yielded to begin to feel real freedom.
You’ve created a website, www.shameoffyou.life. What do you hope will happen there?
Yes. I hope it will be a resource for people to come to when they are overcome with shame. With tips and quizzes and most importantly, God’s Word as our help to overcome shame. Ultimately, I would like to have it be a place of healing, prayer and encouragement.
Thank you so much, Liz, for offering to come on here and do this interview. It is such a joy to spend this time with you and to reflect on the freedom Christ offers us through the Shame Off You Life.
Raw Truth: Shame is present in all of our lives, but God’s Word is a ready defense against any and all shame.
Radical Grace: Even when the shame fits, we don’t have to wear it.
Real Hope: God set us free from shame and removed it’s condemnation.
You’ve been listening to the Black & White Podcast where we filter life through the Bible and live life in the freedom of truth.
For Two Episodes:
Hey there and welcome back to the second part of this special episode of the Black and White Podcast, where we speak radical grace, raw truth, and real hope in a gray world. This is Liz Curtis Higgs and I am here again today with Denise Pass, to discuss her new book, “Shame Off You”. Denise, thank you for having me back on your show!
Oh, Liz, thank YOU!!! This has been so encouraging to talk about the Shame Off You life! I am so grateful for your time and the great questions you are asking.
My pleasure . . .
Raw Truth: We all have shame we need to own, but God’s truth helps us to discern what we need to receive when shame comes knocking on our door.
Radical Grace: God gives us the grace to humbly receive correction from conviction and let go of the shame from condemnation.
Real Hope: We can live a Shame Off You life through God’s word and learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit and differentiate between conviction and condemnation.
You’ve been listening to the Black & White Podcast where we filter life through the Bible and live life in the freedom of truth.