When Shame Has the Last Word

you are not alone. when shame has the last word - elizabeth - affair recovery survivors blog

Shame.

I hate the word. I hate the feeling. I am guessing for most of you reading this, you have more than a vague idea of what this word does to a human being and how it can be one of the most destructive forces on the planet.

I am so tired of shame.

Sure, I can sit here and look back on my life and the things that happened before I had a choice in the matter. Reflect on the things that helped shape my heart into a giant bucket of shame. But the reality is I took shame, let it have authority over me, and ran with it most of my life.

Shame can have many definitions and I'm certain it can have different faces for different people. For me, it has mostly felt like a pit in the deepest parts of my heart (and more tangibly my stomach and my throat) that something is very wrong with me and I am deeply inadequate.

As early as I can remember, I have had this feeling.

To compensate for shame, I would try harder. I would find a way to outperform it, outrun it, or at least cover it up so no one would see it. In an attempt to outrun shame I became the smartest, nicest, most entertaining, funniest, best, most outgoing, and winningest shell of a person that ever existed. I was determined to be successful at everything. I would become everyone's friend. I would never disappoint anyone if I could help it. I would seek approval everywhere. Just take a look at my high school year book. It screams of a girl who sought affirmation everywhere.

Unfortunately my mentality also impacted my spouse.

My husband could never be enough. I mirrored in him my unattainable quest for perfection. I had no idea what intimacy was and destroyed our marriage by not only making it all about me, but seeking all the wrong things in all the wrong places.

A truth that continues to open my eyes is how self-absorbing shame can be. Rick teaches how shame and pride are both a far cry from the place of humility and confidence that God longs for us to find.

Shame is always there, always waiting to devour and pounce. Just today, as I looked on the Affair Recovery website for encouragement, shame crept in.

It whispered rather loudly,

"You are an unfaithful woman. You are the minority. Stay silent. Don't speak out or say anything. It won't be enough and you won't be understood. Stay in the shadows because nothing you say will be believed. You have no right to say anything because of what you've done."

I remember reading a study on how authorities recognize counterfeit dollar bills. It does not happen by studying all of the counterfeits. Instead, they study the real thing. Day after day, they continue to study an authentic dollar bill. They become so familiar with the real thing, it helps them recognize when it's fake.

The same applies to shame. Focusing on the truth helps counteract shame. I am not smart enough to find truth on my own, which is why I find God's word and truth so helpful. I have found it to be the best place to start unraveling the many lies shame speaks. And by studying the real thing, I am slowly learning to see what counterfeits sound and look like.

If you are struggling with shame today, please know you aren't alone. In the darkest days of recovery, I desperately wanted to curl up in a ball and cry out that I deserve nothing more than a life of misery and self-hatred from the choices I made. Not only does that not offer help to anyone but just hear the overwhelming selfishness of that statement! Only when I can look up, reach out, and come outside of that dark place can I begin to see my husband. Consider his feelings. Be curious about what this has been like for him. Possibly offer him some much needed hope or encouragement, even if it is as small as:

"I see you."
"I am not giving up."
"I am sorry that my own shame has caused such abandonment for you."

I am fighting shame.

One of the best ways I have found to combat shame is to enter into one of the Affair Recovery online small groups. For me, it was Hope for Healing. I discovered I wasn't alone in any of these feelings but I desperately need help learning how to fight them and not act out of destructive feelings.

And tangibly, when others can know every dark and ugly thing about me and still find me worthy, I strangely start to see myself differently.

Furthermore, they help provide accountability for helping identify when I want to spiral into shame and negativity. I hate shame. And rightfully so. God hates it too.

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Comments

Talking back to Shame!

Elizabeth, thanks for your encouraging words - you are doing a great work! There are others of us out here walking daily in the judgement of other’ stares, whispers, rumors, and loneliness, yet fighting against the shame that comes from all of it. Thank you for being bold enough to speak out from your experience. As I tell myself daily . . . God’s grace is greater than my mistakes!

Thanks for commenting. I’m

Thanks for commenting. I’m happy to hear that you are living more from a place of Grace than of shame. That is what will change and grow us into women of integrity. Keep your eyes above and keep letting Gods voice be the loudest one you hear.

Why is there a perception

Why is there a perception that a lot of feelings, like shame, are inherently bad? There is a reason they exist and they usually are there to teach you a lesson. Shame after being unfaithful is not a bad thing, it helps you recognize the magnitude of your behavior and the amount of course correction necessary, plus it hopefully serves as a reminder not to repeat the same hurtful behavior.
Infidelity is a serious life changing event, and it has lots of consequences that cannot be easily short circuited.

Shame is one thing, guilt is

Shame is one thing, guilt is another.

Shame makes it about the unfaithful and is not a healthy emotion....I am bad.

Guilt, on the other hand, is different, and a healthy emotion.....I did something bad.

There are some good articles and videos in the Recovery Library about shame and guilt.

Thank you for commenting.

Thank you for commenting. Maybe conviction is a better word. In my experience, shame is never the same as conviction, remorse, or regret. The latter lead to growth and health. Best to you in recovery.

I can’t tell you how thankful

I can’t tell you how thankful I am to read your writings! To be an unfaithful female there is a shortage on information I am sure because shame keeps most women from coming forward! Your words tell exactly what I would love to be able to say! Thank you! Yes, nothing good comes of shame, self pity, or pride! It’s hard to recognize sometimes but that causes us to be self focused and takes our focus off our betrayed spouse!

Thanks for commenting and

Thanks for commenting and reading! It is a privilege to allow God to use my experience to encourage others to heal. Yes, shame can creep in when we least expect it. I know in my recovery, the book Shame interrupted really spoke to me and helped me out of the dark. I wish you very well in your fight for healing.

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