The Invisible Prisons Of Unforgiveness and Shame

The Invisible Prisons Of Unforgiveness and Shame

It breaks my heart to know how many women live torn between the expectation to have it all and keep it all together and the internal reality of feeling flawed, less than, trapped, defeated, hopeless and a hot mess. As women, we have to take off the masks hiding our pain, frustration and confusion and be okay not being okay so we can actually pursue real freedom. And ladies, real freedom begins on the inside and manifests on the outside. Real freedom is our outward reflection living congruent with our internal reality.

My favorite part of coaching is experiencing another human being raw, authentic and vulnerable in complete love and acceptance of their “not okayness”. I love guiding women through the process of declaring victory over their weight and health by confronting and overcoming the lies and strongholds holding them captive and stealing their joy. This process involves uncovering the invisible prisons (beliefs) limiting their joy, peace and abundance.

Some of the well known prisons I find many women locked in are the prisons of:

  • Perfectionism/Obsession
  • Judgement/Criticism
  • Unforgiveness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anger/Strife
  • Control/Anxiety
  • Comparison/Envy
  • Depression/Grief
  • Unworthiness
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Offense (easily offended)

There are so many more, but most women can relate to one or many on this list. It is within these prisons that we form thought patterns and mindsets that drive unhealthy behaviors and subsequently corrode our emotional, physical and spiritual health. It is within these prisons where we forget who we are and where we begin to operate from a false identity. Today, I want to encourage you to be bold and courageous enough to identify one of these prisons you feel held captive by.

Let’s take the spirit of unforgiveness as an example, which is more common than you could possibly imagine. Often we don’t even realize the presence of unforgiveness because we are taught to not be confrontational, to “get over it” or just “move on”. Most of us never learn a healthy way to process unforgiveness so we put on our mask of “it’s all good” and suffer the consequences - oblivious that the root of our discontent/anger/strife/disease/weight is linked to the unforgiveness.

Do you have a spirit of unforgiveness?

  • Do you find yourself EVER reliving the hurts and pains of the past and allowing them to influence your present reality?
  • Do certain people trigger you when you get around them (or think about them) because you carry blame towards them for unresolved issues in your life?
  • Do you look at the dysfunction in your own life (emotional, physical, spiritual or mental) and connect it to memories of what someone did to you or did not do for you?
  • Do you have a hard time telling someone about something that happened to you in the past without feeling the negative emotions from the experience?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are holding onto unforgiveness. That may be harsh, but it’s truth. It’s important to note that it is not uncommon for us to have unforgiveness towards our caregivers (mom and dad) even if our childhood was great. Childhood wounds manifest from disappointment based on how we believe things should have been. Often they originate when the person or people who should have loved and protected us the most (but who are also themselves flawed and wounded) let us down.

In the prison of unforgiveness, we (the ones holding onto the unforgiveness) suffer as we wait with expectation for THAT person to bring the key that will unlock the door to our freedom. We hold on for someone to “undo” or “make right” or “take ownership” of the hurt and pain we experienced so we can finally let it go. And in the meantime as we wait for forgiveness to come from some outside source, we punish ourselves and those around us because unforgiveness is poison.

Unforgiveness never remains contained - it manifests as a critical spirit, becoming easily offended, defensive and angry. Unforgiveness contributes to a myriad of health issues due to unhealthy coping strategies and it’s collateral damage ensues in our relationships. I have also found many women have a primary source of unforgiveness towards themselves, fueling a cyclical and unconscious pattern of punishing themselves over and over again in various ways, waiting to achieve “something” that will be worthy enough to let themselves off the hook (which rarely happens).

Or perhaps you have allowed a spirit of shame to cloak you. Perhaps somewhere along your path, you took on an identity of being flawed, less than or simply not enough. Many of us can recall memories when someone spoke dehumanizing words over us as a child, teenager or young adult. Others of us have lived through the devastation of our bodies being used in ways and for purposes it was never intended for. Sometimes we don’t even know where the feeling of shame comes from, it’s just always been there - this deep sense that we don’t measure up and we never will.

Awareness is always the first step of healing. If we don’t KNOW there is an issue, there is no possibility of addressing it and absolutely zero chance we will walk in freedom around it. We have to be aware of it first. I recently became acutely aware of a deep sense of shame that I had walked with for most of my life. Some of it stemmed back to my childhood but a lot of it was tied to decisions/events/situations from my early adult years and in my marriage that were counter to who I know God created me to be and who I know myself to be deep inside. When we live counter to our true identity - we will feel shame, experience conflict and live in confusion.

At a recent retreat, this “prison of shame” came up for me strong. I actually didn’t even know it was “that big” of an issue, but it was what God was bringing forward over and over again during the weekend. I felt the shame inside of me speaking to me. It told me to hide, isolate, keep quiet and act like it wasn’t there (denial). The shame felt comfortable in a weird, twisted way. I had gotten very good at judging myself and passing it off as false humility. I had a decision to make. I could stay in my prison and identify myself with the shame or I could exchange it for my identity as God’s daughter - pure, flawless, forgiven and free.

That day, with amazing women standing all around me with their hands on my shoulders and head, I walked out of that prison of shame - BLAMELESS. And you know what? I realized that the prison I had lived in for so many years had no lock on it. THERE WAS NO LOCK. I could have walked out of that prison of shame at ANYTIME. I also realized that I had put myself in the prison and I could put myself back in the prison again - I have complete power and authority over the shame as a daughter of God because Jesus paid the price on the cross and crushed the enemy - so I am free (and so are you). Thank you Jesus.

“So if the Son sets you free is free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

  • Where do you need to own your freedom?
  • Where are you waiting for someone or God to unlock the prison gate or open the door for you?
  • What if all that stands between you and freedom is a lie about what has to happen for you to be free?
  • What if you are believing a whole bunch of lies that simply need to be replaced with truth so you can walk out of the prison and into a reality of peace, hope and freedom.

The key is this - get the right source of truth. If you try to get truth of who you are from the world - you will not live free. You will be bound by performance, greed, envy, judgement, comparison, pride, achievement, money, etc. which all lead you into their own prisons.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father (God) but through me.” John 14:6  

The next step of the process is exchange. You have to exchange the lie for God’s truth. I have officially exchanged my old identity rooted in “who I was” when I was lost and bound by sin for the truth of “who I am” as a new creation in Christ. So often, we imprison ourselves through identifying who we are now with limiting beliefs from our past. We tie WHO WE ARE to what we have done or failed to do, what has been done to us, what we have and what people say about us.

For example, you might say:

  • I was a mistake
  • I was bulimic
  • I was an addict
  • I was a party girl
  • I was promiscuous
  • I had an abortion
  • I had a divorce
  • I was raised poor
  • I was raped
  • I was sexually abused
  • I was an alcoholic
  • I had an anger problem
  • I was in prison
  • I was an angry parent
  • I was ______________.

Your past is part of your testimony, but if you don’t exchange the “I was” for the “I am”, then you will live tied to and powerless over those places and identities. “You are not a product of what you have been through, but rather a product of what you BELIEVE, in spite of what you have been through, walked through and been delivered from.” (Quote from Dan Mohler) It is impossible for any belief system based on a lie to produce good fruit in your life. So, it’s time to identify and exchange them for what God says about you.

Are you ready to establish a new healthy normal? No matter how strong you feel your prison walls are, God’s power always dispels darkness and brings light to any and every situation. It’s time to stop waiting for “something” to set you free and receive what God has already freely given through his son, Jesus. If you would like support in this process and to learn more about what I do with women ready to be set free in their physical, emotional and spiritual health, schedule a free coaching session with me here.