Let Go of Shame
Freedom from Eating Disorders, LLC
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Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course
Let Go of Shame
This lesson will provide you with suggestions to help you let go of shame once and for all.
I felt such deep shame over my eating disorder. The Lord once said to me, “You have nothing to be ashamed of.” May you also experience reassurance from the Lord as you take in the insights in this lesson.
Do you feel deeply embarrassed about something in your life? Have you done something you want to hide from everyone? Do you feel shame about your eating disorder?
Shame is a deeply embarrassed, regretful, or painful feeling. You may be quite familiar with shame since it’s so common among those with eating disorders. Maybe you engage in self-condemnation because of it. Perhaps it makes you want to hide. Shame, like other painful emotions, might drive you to eating disorder behaviors. It might even make you feel too humiliated to approach the Lord.
It might feel like you simply can’t get out from underneath the weight of shame: that you’ll carry it for the rest of your days. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can let it go.
Insights about Shame
- Committing sin causes shame. Maybe you lied, stole something, or purposely hurt someone. If you’ve done something wrong that you feel guilty about and you haven’t confessed it, you might feel ashamed.
- You may feel shame over something you wish you hadn’t done even if it wasn’t something sinful.
- Mistreating your body through eating disorder behaviors can bring on shame.
- You might regret an unwise decision you made in the past.
- Public exposure of guilt can cause shame.
- Deep embarrassment and a hurt reputation can cause shame even if what happened wasn’t sinful.
- Someone mistreated or bullied you. Someone abused you, whether it was physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or sexually, and you feel shame over it. You internalized what was said or done to you and concluded you were bad, damaged, or unlovable.
- You think there’s something bad or inadequate about you that you can’t overcome. You may feel deeply disappointed about who you are.
- Shame keeps you tied to the past, whether related to a decision you made or a time when someone violated you. Whatever it was, your shame prevents you from putting it behind you.
- You may settle for less from others because of your shame. You may believe the lie that you don’t deserve better.
- You may settle for less from yourself as a result of shame. You may think you deserve to hurt yourself.
Maybe you can relate to some of the insights here. Perhaps your shame has other causes or effects. Give yourself some time to ponder the possibilities, jot them down in your journal, and discuss them with your counselor. Once you identify the source of your shame and how it affects you, you can work toward letting go of it. Below are some tips to help you do that.
Tips to Let Go of Shame
- Remember that God knows and sees everything. He sees your shame; you can’t hide it from him. But the good news is that he can see right through it to the real you: the beautiful you underneath that he created. So don’t let that shame stand in the way of approaching him. Rom. 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate you from God’s love. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If none of these things can separate you from God’s love, neither can shame. So go ahead and pray. Don’t let shame stop you.
- Examine your heart and confess any sin. Sin brings on guilt, and guilt is closely related to shame. So not only do you feel remorseful about what you did, but you also judge yourself for being a person who would do such a thing. Yet once you’ve confessed and repented, you don’t have to carry that guilt or shame any longer. You can trust that God has forgiven you. Hold on to Heb. 10:17. “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.'” You can also take comfort in knowing that what you do doesn’t define who you are.
- Accept God’s forgiveness. You don’t have to hold on to guilt and shame to try to compensate for what you did. God doesn’t require penance. If you hold on to guilt and shame, you are saying that God’s grace and forgiveness isn’t enough, that you need to do more than he’s done. Remember that you don’t earn his forgiveness, and holding on to shame isn’t a way to make you worthy of it. God forgives you because he’s loving and forgiving. His forgiveness is dependent on his character, not on you holding on to shame.
- Be aware that even though you may sin in your eating disorder, such as by lying and saying you’ve eaten when you haven’t, you can confess and repent of that as you can anything else. You don’t have to walk in humiliation day in and day out because you have an eating disorder. You didn’t choose to have one. You’re trying to recover. That’s nothing to be ashamed of
- Remember that not only does God forgive you, but he also cleanses you. You don’t have to feel ashamed and dirty over anything anymore. Put your past, regrets, sin, mistakes, and ways you’ve been violated behind you. Don’t let the past tether you to shame. Instead, move forward to experience what God has for you. Think like Paul. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
- Consider that the Lord knows what you need to break out of the eating disorder behaviors. Let him show you how to change, lead you to the help you need, and heal you. Don’t let feelings of disgrace prevent you from getting needed help. Know that no matter how many times you’ve done what isn’t good for you, tried to quit and couldn’t, or given up, he still loves you without condition, and he still wants to make you more like him. Don’t let shame get in the way of him doing his work in you. Pray and open your heart to what he has in mind for you.
- Stop judging yourself so harshly. There’s no command that says you have to condemn yourself repeatedly for your wrongs or weaknesses.
- Reject the lie that you don’t deserve better from others or yourself. Where in God’s Word does it say that you should be mistreated? That you should hurt yourself? It simply isn’t there. What you will find are Scriptures that speak of how special you are to God. For more on replacing lies with the truth, dig into the Change Your Thoughts lesson.
- Recognize that what you’ve done doesn’t make you a bad person. Your identity doesn’t lie in what you’ve done, but in who you are. If you’ve done things you shouldn’t have, yes, move forward from that and change from the inside out. But don’t let your past behavior sentence you to believing you’re an awful person. Instead, believe what God says about you, which is based on his love for you, not on what you have or haven’t done.
- Let go of what others think of you the best you can. This isn’t an easy thing to do. But if you’ve done something that was publicly exposed or harmed your reputation, it will help if you can put others’ judgments and viewpoints behind you. You don’t have to let their opinions wrap you in shame. Instead, you can peel that shame off you, cling to what God says about you, and concern yourself with his view of you. For more on the subject, check out the lesson See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out.
- Be aware that Satan would love for you to focus on your shame. That way you’ll feel uncomfortable approaching the Lord so you can’t invite his healing and power into your life. If he can keep you stuck in shame, he can thwart your recovery and prevent you from experiencing the peace and joy God has in store for you.
- Discern the difference between true guilt and false guilt. Sin brings on true guilt. False guilt comes from other things. For example, you might feel guilty about not being able to attend an event or feeling happy about something in your own life when you know someone else who is hurting. In other words, it doesn’t come from sin, but from things like self-imposed expectations or self-condemnation. Like true guilt, false guilt can lead to shame. When you have false guilt and shame, know that you don’t deserve to feel those things, and you don’t have to continue under their effects. Learn to recognize false guilt and associated shame and give them to the Lord, turn around, and walk away lighter. Take them back to him as many times as it takes to leave them there. They have no place in your life. The Let Go of Guilt lesson has some valuable related insights and tips.
- Understand that if you were abused, you don’t deserve to feel ashamed. That individual decided to do something awful to someone; you did not. It wasn’t your fault. You don’t have to degrade or condemn yourself because of what happened to you. You don’t have to blame yourself for the bad decisions someone else made. What happened to you doesn’t make you less of a person, and it doesn’t make you bad, dirty, damaged or unlovable. What occurred was a reflection on the other person, not you; it was someone else’s choice, not yours. Again, you don’t deserve to feel ashamed. Read this paragraph over and over if you need to for its words to change your perspective and touch your emotions.
- Realize that no matter how hard it is to believe that you don’t need to feel ashamed, it’s still true. Remind yourself of that truth repeatedly.
- Determine to recognize shameful feelings when they come and immediately give them to the Lord. Do it a thousand times a day if that’s what it takes. You don’t have to live a life ruled by shame anymore. That shame just fuels feelings of unworthiness. Remember that God loves and values you; he doesn’t shame you.
- Recognize that God truly doesn’t want you to live buried in shame. He knows how debilitating such feelings can be. He desires to help and heal you. Search for Scriptures that remind you of that. Take them to heart and meditate on them. Here are a few to begin.
“You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps. 32:7).
“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Ps. 54:4).
“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Psalm 55:17-18).
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me” (Ps. 86:5-7).
“…The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down” (Ps. 145:13b-14).
- Ask yourself if you would shame someone for making a mistake. Would you judge someone who was abused? Would you tell someone to carry shame for every reason possible? No. You wouldn’t bully someone else, so don’t bully yourself. Offer yourself the same kindness and grace you would extend to others. You’re a child of the Most High God: you deserve that kindness.
- Embrace God’s grace. Look at Heb. 4:16. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Think of how this verse is worded. It doesn’t imply that you need to “clean yourself up” first. In other words, you can’t earn grace, but you can receive it. You go to God and receive his mercy and grace because you need it. And even though you’re in a state of need, you can still approach him confidently. In other words, your need shouldn’t prevent you from going to the Lord, but should draw you to him. That may seem contrary to what you think, but it’s in God’s Word so it has to be true. He’s ready to grant you good things. You don’t have to feel deserving. It isn’t about that; it’s about his character. Instead of ruminating on your shame, try to focus on God’s grace instead.
- Acknowledge that holding onto shame will just fuel the negative thoughts and emotions that drive you to eating disorder behaviors. You can stop stoking that fire if you’ll let go of shame. While it will be a process that you may need to work at for a while, doing so will free you. In other words, let go of shame, and it will let go of you.
- Pray for the insights and strength you need to let go of shame. Ask God to heal you of it. Ask him to help you see yourself through his eyes instead of the eyes of shame. Remember that he loves you unconditionally. Embrace his love as you let go of shame.
You can hold your head high as a child of God who is forgiven, cleansed, and loved. Remember that whenever shame tries to creep back in. Use these principles to ward off shame. It doesn’t deserve a place in your life.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I feel the weight of shame, and yet I know that you have better things in mind for me. I give this shame to you because I know you don’t want me to carry it anymore, and I know you can heal me of its effects. Please help me to see the truth and no longer buy into the lie that I should feel ashamed even when I haven’t sinned. I confess any shame I feel that is a result of sin. Specifically, I have ______________________________. Please cleanse my heart and help me to turn to you instead of this sin. Thank you for your forgiveness, healing, and direction.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
I Can’t Carry it Anymore
For years I’ve felt the weight of shame
reside inside my very core –
remorse, embarrassment, and pain.
I can’t carry it anymore.
I’ve felt that I’ve deserved such pain,
but I don’t think that anymore.
Its weight is like a heavy chain.
I can’t carry it anymore.
My eyes now opened, I can see
it’s only hurt me more and more.
It weighs me down, it limits me.
I can’t carry it anymore.
I know God wants the best for me,
a better life he has in store.
I’ll place my shame into his hands.
I can’t carry it anymore.
To help you leave your shame with the Lord, try the following exercise:
- Draw two hands on a piece of paper. If you’d rather not draw, you can trace your hands.
- Imagine these drawings represent God’s hands.
- Think of what you feel ashamed of and write a word or a phrase on the hands to represent it.
- Pray to give the shame over to the Lord and ask him to heal your heart and mind of the shame and its effects on you.
- Remind yourself that you don’t need to hold onto shame any longer. It’s in God’s hands.
- Each day, evaluate if you’ve left the shame with him or taken hold of it again.
- If you’ve grabbed the shame back, explore why. Pray and write about it in your journal.
- Leave it in God’s hands again. Do this as many times as it takes. There’s no limit to how many attempts you can make.
- When you’ve left it with him, celebrate his healing work in you.
The remaining features for this lesson, as listed below, are printable. You may download the PDF file here.
Answer Key for Quiz
All Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find out about other lessons on the Recovery Course page.
Change Your Thoughts
Learn to Deal with Emotions
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
Address Your Relationship with Food
Invite God into Your Recovery
Let Go of Control
Face Your Fears
Experience Inner Healing
Let Go of Perfectionism
Let Go of Guilt
Let Go of Shame
Deal with Relapses