It's Time to Be Set Free from Shame
Dear friend, You do not have to hide.
I see you there, hiding yourself, hiding from the people around you, hiding from God. And I know what it’s like to hide. I lived in hiding for a long time.
See, I hid for the same reason that Adam and Eve did in the garden: I felt ashamed. I knew I had failed in so many ways—selfishness, laziness, bitterness, anger. I felt that I was a failure. Not good enough. Looking in the mirror, I picked out my flaws—too soft around the middle, too many stray hairs on my face, too short, too small. I wondered if people who looked at me saw what I saw, and I wanted to cover it up.
And when I looked into my own eyes, they looked empty.
Beneath the surface I didn’t like was a person I liked even less. I was tormented by anxiety that sent thoughts searing through my mind—all the thoughts I wanted to keep out, all the thoughts I knew God wouldn’t like. It was obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I didn’t always know that. I just thought that I was carrying deep, dark sin, and that I was a soul beyond saving.
And I was terrified that someone would find out. I was constantly afraid that someone would stop and see, really see, the darkness behind my eyes and my smile. I feared they would be disappointed in me, that they would reject me.
So I believed I was unlovable.
I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t believe what he said: that I was loved, made new, and free from shame.
The only person I ever trusted was myself. I was the one who had to make myself new, make myself lovable, and make myself worthy of a life free from shame. So I never let other people into my struggle. I had to carry my burdens myself and face my demons alone.
But it became impossible. I was consumed by fear. Feeling isolated, cut off from a world that didn’t really know me. I hated myself, and it sapped my energy so much so that I couldn’t function.
That was depression, and it was something I couldn’t fix or carry on my own.
So, finally, I let others in. I told my family and friends I was struggling. Then I began the process of asking for help, of telling my story, and of seeking treatment for a mental illness I couldn’t control.
I stopped hiding.
Thus, I became more afraid of living life alone and miserable than of being rejected. I wanted more than that for myself, and began to believe that I was worthy of love, my life was important, and that it was okay to struggle. I didn’t have to hide my struggle, and I wasn’t alone in it.
It turned out that the people around me had been hiding too, afraid of being seen, afraid of being condemned, and ashamed of their struggle. And when I came out of hiding, they came to me.
Just like that, the isolation and the fear lost their power.
You do not have to hide.
No matter what it is you are struggling with, you are worth more. You are worth loving. You are worth standing up and reclaiming your life. Choose to love yourself, to let go of that fear, and to step out of hiding.
It’s probably true that not everyone will approve or understand. Not everyone understands mental illness and you might be shamed for it. But remember: people shame others because they are afraid. They are insecure. They don’t yet know and understand the full power of the redeeming love of God.
But there are also people who will support you, who will help you through a struggle you didn’t know how to face alone, who will teach you that you are far more valuable than anything you are going through. And there are people who will step out of hiding because of your example and see the light of day for the first time.
It is in our weakness that God’s power shines.
Dear friend, you do not have to carry this alone. You do not have to hide anymore.
Come be seen.
Tori Margaret is passionate about writing honestly, loving deeply, and walking with people through their stories. She writes about her struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD to encourage others that they are not alone and to open the door for real conversations about real suffering. She has written for TWLOHA, a non-profit devoted to supporting people with mental illness. Her latest work on her struggle against fear is a science fiction novella, The Last Valkyrie, which will release in January 2017. You can find more of Tori’s writing at her blog, BoldBrightBeautiful.com, or connect with her in our Writing group.