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“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brene Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

There are eight of us women, sitting together in a circle of comfortable chairs, sharing our hearts with each other. The topic, however, is anything but comfortable. We are talking about our shame.

We are remembering how, as children, our moms or dads made statements or comments to us that were shaming. How our friends and fellow students put us down and we felt “less than”.  How even the shame carried by our parents was unknowingly placed on our own shoulders and became our burden.

Shame is subtle and sometimes difficult to name, much less to remove. This is our hope as we sit together for these upcoming weeks. To make at least a start at ferreting out this most painful of emotions. We are looking for the beginnings of freedom from shame.

The author of the WDA RYH Conquering Shame Workbook, Lee Tolar, has this to say about shame:

“In my 25 years of leading RYH groups I have found that shame is much more common than most of us think.  There will always be some people who have an obvious struggle with shame exhibited by “a poor self image”.   However, many of us mask our shame behind perfectionism, defensiveness, a false self, emotional numbness or low-level depression. Thus our shame is not so easily recognizable to ourselves or other people.”

“Shame originated with Adam and Eve.  After the fall, they felt guilty about having committed a sin and shameful of whom they now were (sinners).   They came up with the original defense mechanism: hiding from God.  This desire to hide our shortcomings has been passed down to us with our sin nature.

“25 years of leading RYH groups has helped me to see how extensive the problem of shame is in other people but it has also helped me to see and understand my own shame.  As I have recognized my own shame, I have been able, with God’s help, to release a lot of it, become less defensive, face and deal with my shortcomings, and to appreciate who He made me to be.”

WDA’s Conquering Shame Workbook helps people recognize what caused their shame, what their particular symptoms of shame are, and most importantly how to release and recover from these toxic beliefs and emotions. It is based on Biblical principles.  My favorite chapter deals with recognizing each person’s strengths.

Like our other RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions, it is designed for use in a confidential small group setting with a trained RYH facilitator.

A recent participant in a Conquering Shame Group had this to say about her experience:

“I want to express my gratitude to you and to those who have contributed in writing the manual for the ” RYH Conquering Shame group”!  I have been dealing with shame issues since I was a young child.  This group was able to clarify what shame is all about, and I clearly understand how damaging living this way is.  Shame affects every part of your being and it greatly affects your relationship with God. I believe the group dynamics and interaction, really enhanced the discussions.”

“The biggest breakthrough for me, was telling/hearing our shame stories!”

“Being able to verbalize what has been inside of me, in that dark place and bringing it out into the open (the light) with “safe” people was so healing. Actually, it was the first time I had been able to tell a group this story.  After hearing and telling my own story, I felt a great release in my spirit.  It’s freedom from the bondage of shame!  I have a changed mind-set about my shame- yes, that stuff did happen to me and it’s very sad, BUT that’s not who I am.  The lies that I have believed about myself for so long have lost their powerful hold on me.  Restoration is a process that takes time, and in my case many, many years.  Little by little, the Lord has nudged my spirit to take another step in the healing process.  God always knows what I need and at just the right time. One day, I will have total restoration when the Lord returns for, “HIS CHURCH” and that will be a glorious day!”

As our group concluded the 17 weeks together, dealing with our shame issues, we all felt lighter. I think most of us suffer from shame to one degree or another. Sometimes we feel shame but don’t even recognize it for what it is. We just have this nagging feeling that something is wrong with us but we don’t know what or why. Sometimes just being able to name shame is a powerful, freeing experience. It is definitely the start of conquering shame.

Our hope is that as the RYH ministry grows, more people will be able to benefit from participating in a Conquering Shame group. I certainly learned a lot about myself and gained some freedom while experiencing it.

Do you have areas in your life that have caused you shame? Maybe this article while be an incentive to start addressing those areas and begin to heal from them.

To learn more about shame, we recommend any of Brene Brown’s books. She is a leading expert on shame and vulnerability and her books are eye-opening, informative and honest.  Link to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk talk on shame.

Note: We do recommend that anyone who would like to participate in a RYH Conquering Shame group has first gone through our other two RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions.