A young man driving through his neighborhood spotted a yard sale sign out in front of a house. The sign said, “The Devil’s Yard Sale” intrigued, he pulled up to the curb and climbed out of his car to check out the merchandise. After rummaging through the items and picking up several tools, he noticed one tool on a table in the yard that looked amazing and needed to learn more.
As the young man approached the table, he asked the Devil how much he wanted for the tool. The Devil replied, “It’s not for sale.” Disappointed, the young man walked away but he was still interested. After a few minutes of wandering around, he came back and said, “I’d like to buy that tool, name your price.” The Devil replied again, “It’s not for sale.” Frustrated, the young man turned away but couldn’t help himself, he said, “I’ll give you anything for the tool.” Angrily, the Devil said, “IT’S NOT FOR SALE!”
After a moment to collect himself, the young man said, “Can you explain how it works?” The Devil explained this tool is the most powerful of all the tools he uses, and his favorite. No other tool works for him as well as this one. The young man asked, “what is the name of the tool?” The Devil, with a smile, replied, “It is the tool of shame.”
The Devil continued, “When people do something stupid, fail at something, or start to feel discouraged or disappointed, I put this tool to work to ratchet up the impact. When someone already feels bad about something they did (even if they didn’t do anything wrong) then I put the tool to work. Before long they will be so full of shame and discouragement that my work will be done and if I’m lucky, they might begin to feel depressed!”
How Shame Affects Us
Many of us have experienced shame when we fail a test or don’t get the promotion we were working toward or someone makes fun of us and in many other painful ways. Shame plays a powerful role in our emotions, maybe the most powerful when purposefully used against us or when we let shame get the better of us.
Shame can be an awful plague on our bodies. We can be flying on cloud-9 one minute and the next someone may make a remark about our clothes or our body or what we said, and we immediately are discouraged and ashamed. For some, getting out of this funk is easy, but for others, it can lead to further shame, frustration, and discouragement.
I am my own worst enemy in this arena. But I remind myself of my identity in God and the love of others in my life. At times, I will reflect on personal successes for encouragement and to pull myself out of the funk. I don’t have to let my failure or disappointment take me down the path of shame and discouragement. But this may not be so easy or maybe, as I’ve experienced, it takes you down a road toward depression if you’re not careful.
Shame and Depression Go Hand in Hand
According to allaboutdepression.com, depression affects nearly 19 million Americans or almost 10% of the population in a year. At some point in their lives, 10-25% of women and 5-12% of men will be diagnosed as clinically depressed. Unfortunately, these numbers only reflect reported cases. Many people are languishing and not getting help.
If you are experiencing prolonged periods of sadness or shame, seek professional help and start sharing what is going on. Find a trusted friend you can share your struggles with. Open up to a spouse or significant other. Trying to get out of your funk on your own won’t work. I personally know this is true!
Shame is a tough emotion to deal with and never one to deal with alone. I urge you to see shame, depression, grief, and loss, like fear, an early warning system for your mind, body, and heart. Shame is a reminder for you to do something about the emotion.
Our emotions are present to help us, not to harm or damage us and others. When we view our “negative” emotions in this way, our lives change for good and the Devil’s greatest tool will lose much of its power.
Here are a few ways to use shame to your advantage:
- Find someone to talk to about the struggle you are in.
- Remind yourself you are not the only one that experiences shame.
- Find out how you got to this place of shame, what is the lie behind the shame?
- Find the lesson or the truth that is bringing you these feelings.
- Learn from the shame and use it to your advantage.
- Take immediate action to move away from this feeling and toward something positive.
Are there things in your life you are ashamed of? Do you find yourself often discouraged or sad? How have you overcome shame in the past?