When Shame Masquerades Itself As Regret
As long as I can remember, God has given me the amazing gift of having women in my life I can look to as an example. There has never been a lack of women who are older, whether it be by 5 years or 50 years, who challenge my beliefs and thought processes, and I am a far better person because of them.
The other day I was talking to one of these amazing friends and we were sharing how God is stretching and challenging us. This friend is a lot like me, a renaissance woman who's life doesn't fit into a 9-5 kind of mold. I know whenever my life takes a turn off the "normal" beaten path, she will understand. I can't put into words what it means to have someone who gets me and who also challenges me in ways I need.
One of my first conversations with her several years ago happened in the copy room of the church I used to work at. She is a director, among many other things, and was making copies of her latest script. I so enjoyed my conversation with her and admired her openness about God and the "messiness" life can bring. The thing I remember most, however, is a statement she said about regret. She said something along the lines of how even though she knows God has redeemed all her past, if she could go back and change things she would because in light of knowing the cost of sin, she regrets the pain her actions had caused. At the time of this conversation, being still very wounded, I saw all of like through a lens of shame. Now, I had no clue at all this was my condition, but nevertheless, it was my state of mind. So, like a dog that has learned how to walk on only three legs, I had learned how to conform theology so it made sense through my very cloudy lens of shame. For example, I knew that God had made me and He loved me and He wanted me to love and accept myself. Through the filter of shame, the only way I knew how to make that happen was to adopt a "I have no regrets because the past has made me who I am" philosophy. I had developed such a hard shell around my heart that the idea of regret, true regret would have meant being vulnerable in a way I couldn't be at the time. Then when I ran into my friend the other day and she again was talking about regret and how she did regret some things she had done because of the ripple effects they had on other people, I had an epiphany. You see, long story short, God has removed the lens of shame from my eyes and for the first time I saw regret for what it was: to be sorry you had done something... That may sound simple and stupid, but for someone who has lived under shame, the idea of simply being sorry for something without the added weight of shame is so like taking your first breath of fresh air after being in a mine for years. Another friend once said "Guilt is when you feel did something wrong, shame is when you feel you are wrong." So for someone living under shame, the idea of simply regretting something but not reliving it over and over again with that pit in your stomach that comes with feeling you are wrong, is impossible. God's healing hand is so amazing... You see, over the last couple years, He has shown me in unbelievable ways the redemptive power of the cross. His ability to use my "all things" for His good is staggering. The last few days I have been able to see this even more clearly through realizing true Godly regret does not come with shame... I can regret my actions and it not be self deprecating... Like only a perfect Father can, He allows me to crawl up in His lap, tell Him I am sorry for what I did, thank Him for forgiving me, and rest in the knowledge He is cleaning up the mess I made... And now, with blinders removed, I can more easily identify when shame is hiding with a mask, pretending to be regret and waiting to devour me. Now, I can refuse to allow that deceitful shame to be a filter for anything in my life and the lives of those around me...