God made us for connection. God made us for relationships. Relationships are the stuff of life. It is why we are here—it’s what makes life worth living. When you ask people about happiness, and joy, they almost always move toward feelings of disconnection, and loss. Why is it, that when we bring up connection, the discussion always goes toward disconnection?
Brene’ Brown, Professor at the University of Houston, and NYTimes bestselling author, says “The big unnamed thing—the thing that unravels connection—is shame.” Shame is the fear of relational disconnection. Shame is that inward question we always ask, but hate to admit about ourselves: “Am I worthy of connection? Am I good looking enough? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough?” No one wants to talk about it, but everyone struggles with it. It’s the lingering question of our heart.
Shame undermines wholehearted connection with those we love. Shame is the fig leaf of Adam. We hide our heart from others, and live half-hearted lives, begging to be loved, but unwilling to reveal what holds us back.
Undealt with shame can become a demonic stronghold. Satan uses it to undermine wholehearted devotion. It’s the shut-off valve that won’t let us love with our whole heart. It is that part of our heart that can only go so far in our love relationships. The demonic stronghold of shame has an automatic shut-off to deep intimacy.
Yet, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment, the most vital spiritual life we can experience, is through “loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” So, either we have been handed a cruel joke from God, or God can break through our shame, and set us free to obey His command.
Six years ago, through a deep experience of outward betrayal, and inward shame, I became intimate with the demonic strongholds in my life. By far, it was the most difficult time of my life. I fought, and fought the shame in my heart. After all, I had successfully hidden this area of my heart for over fifty years. Why couldn’t I just keep ignoring it? Why couldn’t I just move on?
What gripped my heart during this experience was one word: “wholehearted.” The word, wholehearted, took control of my thinking. I wanted to be wholehearted! With much counseling, with much prayer with many loving friends, I gained spiritual momentum through an agonizing question: “Am I wholehearted in my love for God and people?”
I discovered that shame was the blockage to wholehearted devotion. I realized that much of my adult life had been a long disconnect with my whole heart due to shame. This shame stronghold had never been confronted. I was missing something of the original Adam within me, the imageo dei, that had created a “hide and seek” existence for which I now had to continue to run from, or face. Would I keep running, or face my shame?
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.