Shame is not Motivation
This is a story that I never tell. I'm a storyteller. I like to be in the center of the table holding everyone's attention. I've told A LOT of stories, but there is one story that I've kept locked away for years. It's time that I share it.
One day when I was in college, I went to the Caf for lunch. Luke, my then boyfriend and now husband, was waiting for me in the booths. I was standing in the pizza line and one of the workers called out to me and asked "Are you pregnant?"
Stunned and embarrassed I said "No."
His response was, "Oh, you're just really fat."
With all of the confidence I could muster I said, "that's an incredibly rude thing to say." Then I immediately left the pizza line and ran to the booths where I cried for an hour.
This isn't a story about pity or fat-shaming, which is terrible and no one should ever intentionally hurt someone's feelings, but a story about motivation.
After that encounter I was NOT motivated to make a lifestyle change or choose grilled chicken over pizza. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I went to Chick-fil-a for a fried chicken sandwich, waffle fries, buckets of Chick-fil-a sauce, and then onto Dairy Queen for a blizzard, you know, to "feel better."
From that moment on, whenever I entered a room, walked across a parking lot, sat in a chair, stood in a line, sunk into a couch, or any other public scenario you can think of there was always a deadly whisper that trickled down from my mind to my emotions that said, "everyone thinks you look disgusting and people feel sorry for you."
That interaction with that gentleman didn't drive me into depression or dangerous habits like bulimia, but it did bring shame.
Shame is a hard emotion to deal with, but shame is not a characteristic of God. He doesn't include shame in the fruit of the spirit, but instead erases shame from our lives completely. Because of Jesus' life and sacrifice, we are forgiven and don't have to feel shame. I'm so thankful for that truth!
Because I have a relationship with Jesus, I knew that thought was a lie. I trust in the fact that nothing I can do (or look like) can separate me from God's love. I know that I'm accepted by Christ. Thankfully, in the moments where that thought or thoughts like that rise up in me, I can capture it, remember God's truth, and confidently move on.
A couple of weeks ago I read the story of Hosea in the She Reads Truth study I'm going through. I love the story of Hosea. It's such a clear picture of how much God loves us, how he pursues us, and how we were made to be in relationship with him.
If you are unfamiliar with this story, please take a minute to read this.
How these 2 stories (my shame story + Hosea) relate together is this: nothing satisfies like Jesus. Not people, not things, not food, not even weight loss. A life giving relationship with Jesus is the only way that we'll be truly satisfied. We are worthy of being pursued by God. We don't have to feel shame.
I loved what Ellie Holcom wrote, "I couldn’t believe God wanted anything to do with me. I knew better, had made terrible decisions, and yet here He was saying I was chosen, beloved, forgiven, and pursued by Him! Like Gomer, I was a picture of the wayward Israel, chasing other gods and other loves, when the true God pursued me and purchased me as His own."
Prior to starting my journey, I felt just like that.
What I'm really learning is that shame doesn't motivate me into good decisions. I think that's how a lot of people operate. Making decisions out of shame / fear instead of a place of joy / love.
I knew that I had ignored a major problem in my life. Because of that secret shame I felt, I hindered myself from being truly satisfied in the Lord. I'm excited to tell you that over these 7 weeks, not only have I recognized this issue in my life, but I've given it up.
It's God's love empowers us to make good decisions. I want my outer self to reflect what's going on inside - satisfied in Christ not food.
Big decisions like getting healthy, ignoring food temptations, or recognizing the major areas that you struggle in won't last or be permanent in your life is shame is your #1 driving factor. Make big decisions to change because of love. Love for yourself and the truth of how much God loves you.
This was a more emotional post than I'm used to writing. It's hard to drum up these old feelings that I've done such a great job at stuffing down. It's hard to re-play that encounter over and over, but in a weight loss journey old emotions rise to the surface faster than anything. It's hard, emotional, and messy.
Now, I see joy in this story. I can see God redeeming that interaction as a pivotal moment in my physical and spiritual life. Shame doesn't and never will motivate me. Love motivates me. - JJ
If you have any commentary on this post, I'd love to hear it, but please stay positive. This was a really hard story for me to share. If you're struggling with shame and need someone to talk to, I'd love to listen.