(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 13 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift some one's spirit.)
Shame is such a powerfully negative word to me. When I hear expressions like "You should be ashamed", "What a shame" and "just shameful", I can actually feel myself shrink inside, even if they aren't directed at me. In Chapter 13, Never Be Ashamed, Joyce Meyer makes an important distinction between guilt and shame, which are often confused: "Guilt is a feeling about what you do; shame relates to who you are as a person." (p.181) Shame leads to feelings of great unworthiness, and if we're not careful can get deep down into our soul, giving us a shame-based nature that is an open door for the enemy.
Two of the five elements of the shame-based nature identified by Joyce that reasonate with me the most are perfectionism and false or excessive responsibility. These two pitfalls present themselves whenever I am faced with something that I feel is important or if I feel that I could have done something better. For me, these two relate to one another. In certain situations I will put a great deal of pressure on myself beforehand or do a number on myself afterward. This autism journey brings these both to the forefront and forces me to confront these tendencies head-on. I'll start with perfectionism: I have always strived for approval and achievement and for many years my ability to meet these high standards completely determined my self-worth. Once I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued to try to live up high expectations. When things don't turn out the way I expect them to, my first thought is sometimes, "What didn't I do right?" or "What should I have done better?". This leads me right into false or excessive responsibility. I have guilt over not having had more knowledge when my son was a baby about how environmental and biomedical factors could likely have contributed to his developing autism. Now that I have this knowledge, I feel that I must share it in the hopes of preventing others from this type of loss. If they choose not to take the information that I offer, I have to make a conscious effort to then distance myself so that I don't bear excessive responsibility for their choices.
The good news is that God shows us a way to overcome these tendencies. We need to dwell on what the Bible says about who we are, not on our feelings. For me, these tendencies cause me to focus on myself too much instead of on God. This opens the door for the enemy to feed me lies, and steal my strength, focus and joy. God wants us to be free to be who He made us to be, unashamed. On page 188, Joyce cautions us to make sure that we aren't the victims of "identity theft" by reminding us who we are in Christ: "You are a child of God. His power is in you and He will enable you to do whatever you need to do in life. You are a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). You have an assignment from God and a great future. Your past has been washed away in the blood of Jesus. You are awesome-totally, absolutely awesome!"(Joyce Meyer, p.188)
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
-2 Corinthians 5:17
"Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
-2 Corinthians 5:21
"Yea, none that wait for thee shall be put to shame: They shall be put to shame that deal treacherously without cause. "
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."
-1 John 4:4