I went through a life-changing experience 6 years ago when the Lord decided that it was time for me to overcome the shame of my past which was holding me back. Then He used me to free many others from their shame through counseling. If you have a past that most people don’t know about, this post is for you. If you struggle to accept that you can’t go back in time and change things, read on. If there are certain things that you would be mortified for people to know about you, this is for you.
7 steps to overcoming the shame of your past:
1. Stop believing lies. Fill in the blanks: If people knew about my past, they would think __________ because __________. I used to complete the sentence this way: If people knew about my past they would think I was dirty and damaged because my past is worse than everybody else’s. When I began to share my story with others, I got a MUCH different response than I had expected. Often what you fear others will think is not what they will think. Some of the best advice I ever got during that time was this – “For every person who judges you, there will be 50 people who are helped by your story.”
2. Relive your story. Relive it through the eyes of the person you were at the time with the knowledge and maturity level that you had back then. It’s very easy now to say shoulda, woulda, coulda and to be mad that we didn’t know better, didn’t do better, etc. But the truth is that we were much more immature and less knowledgeable back then. I chose to write out the events of the past in detail like a story. I played music from that time period and read my diary from that time, etc. I wanted to truly remember what it felt like to be 16 year old me. It was very eye-opening because I was able to remember what I believed and felt at the time that led to my choices and behavior. I realized that I was a different person then. I was able to forgive myself when I empathized with my younger self and had mercy on her. Seek to understand the “why” behind your choices and empathize with yourself.
3. Stop worrying so much about what other people think. You are who are you are. You’ve been through what you’ve been through. You’ve made poor choices. It’s okay! Most people have a past. If they don’t, it’s still okay. Your past makes you more mature, more passionate, more caring, and more understanding. You are a fuller person. Be proud to be someone who isn’t perfect but is wise, compassionate, and humble. So often we are worried that other people will confirm that we really are as awful as we think we are. The opposite is usually the truth.
4. Stop keeping your past in the locked closet. Your past is causing issues in the present because it hasn’t been confronted and dealt with. I spent many years thinking that I was fine until one event made me feel as if the closet door fell open and all the junk pressed up against the inside of the door had come pouring out. It was a mess, and I had to clean it up. As long as you are storing it in the closet, you are in bondage to it. Purge it and take it to the trash dump. It’s time to deal with it.
5. Grieve. Grieve over the fact that things weren’t as they were “supposed” to be. In other words, how you wish they would have been. Your life is messy. That sucks. It’s okay to be sad. Don’t let anger become a substitute for grief. We all prefer to be mad rather than sad. It feels safer. However, you need to allow yourself to experience the emotion which is appropriate to the situation. Anger is a factor, but the truth is that you are sad that things had to be that way.
6. Accept the gift of Jesus’ forgiveness and redemption. If you are in Christ, you truly are a new creation. Get it through your head. For me, it took 10 years to sink in that I really am a new creation. The old is gone. Yes, my past involved my same body. It was physically myself who was there, but it was not the me that exists now. It was a lost, immature, desperate person seeking to fill a void. That doesn’t resemble my current self at all.
7. Share you story. Share it with safe and trusted people in your life. This was the scariest yet most freeing step for me. Why? Because I received love, acceptance, and even admiration from those I shared with. Such a different reaction than I had expected. Above all, my story made God look like the amazing superhero that He is. I showed off His miraculous powers and glorified Him like never before. People began to realize that if He can do that for me, He can do it for them.
For many years I pleaded with God that I could develop amnesia or remove a piece of history from the timeline of my life or go back in time and make different choices, but He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I have been given a treasure in a jar of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to Him and not me.
You can move on. This doesn’t define you. It’s time to deal with it once and for all.
I’d love to hear your story… share a comment below. Or, share with a friend who needs to heal.