The practicalities of shame…aka, theology can only go so far.

Jesus. Shame. Bodies.

The shame placed on Christ’s breathless body enables our healing. Resurrection power becomes our cellular makeup. Shame no longer has to remain within us. Shame can now seep out through our skin as we are transfigured into Life itself.

That’s all well and good in the abstract. Yet even the most compelling theology can only go so far. But what does this look like, practically?

First, we need space. This involves setting aside intentional time to be with God and process shame. I once read that so much of our relationship with God consists of creating spaces for him to work. We aren’t the ones actually doing the healing; we merely posture ourselves in ways that allow him to do what he naturally does – redeem and restore.

This almost always entails calling a counselor or spiritual director. We need both physical space and physical presence to wade with us into these deep waters. Sometimes God will lead us there alone with him outside the counseling room, yet even then we need those more weathered and trained than us to speak into and pray over these experiences.

Second, we need patience. This means the ability to be patient with yourself rather than crumble in frustration or angst. Depending on your particular life experiences, healing from heaped-on shame can take years. We may get to a point where we no longer need consistent counseling to facilitate that process; yet we will always need the understanding that there is no quick fix for wounds of this variety.

Third, we need awareness, particularly an awareness of our bodies. We need to learn how to read the emotional signals our bodies send us daily. This will help us to know when we need to take time to allow our bodies to release shame. For instance, you can sometimes tell if you about to process somatic shame when you feel heaviness in your face, specifically behind your eyes. If you sit with these sensations long enough, tears will likely follow not long after. Yet following the release, there is a lightness and spaciousness that wasn’t there before. It’s dreadful, empowering, and wildly liberating all at once.

Fourth, we need nonjudgment. We need to learn how to be with ourselves without casting what we are feeling as either good or bad. They merely give us information about where we have been, what is presently happening, and what actions are needed. When we place evaluations on our emotions, we leap out of the present moment and into an anxiety spiral.