This week in worship, we will explore the power that words can have in our family lives. As I reflected on the topic, I began to feel for all those in our community for whom this weekend will be particularly painful—reminding them of the ways they have been wounded, or have wounded those closest to them. While many of us tend to hide the ways we have hurt or been hurt by our families, these hurts cut deep.

Karen A. McClintock writes beautifully about shame in her book, Shame-less Lives, Grace-full Congregations. She defines shame as “a feeling of unworthiness in the sight of God or significant others.” (15) While it is normal and healthy to feel guilt, acknowledging we have made mistakes, shame is different. Shame paralyzes us—it is present in the moments where we feel that we are the mistake (22).

For many of us, the way our families have treated us, or the hurtful ways we have treated them, have made us feel “shame-bound.” Hurtful words have been given power in our lives. We feel “unworthy to the core” and “unredeemable because of unacceptable thoughts, feelings or experiences.” (23) Can you relate to this at all?
Shame is a powerful force that often takes root when we hear hurtful messages from our loved ones. Do any of you have areas where you don’t think very highly of yourselves? Look a little deeper, and you are likely to find shame.

Addressing the areas we feel as shame, and coming to love ourselves as God loves us, is a very difficult process. It may require counseling help from a pastor or a professional counselor. But I also believe it is one in which prayer can be helpful. In Jesus’ ministry he explained: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”(John 10:10). This week, I challenge us to recognize the areas of shame in our lives, and commit them to God in prayer. Ask God to heal you from the self-hatred or unworthiness you feel. Remember, we are deeply loved and God’s love for us isn’t dependent on anything we do or leave undone. Invite God to give you the strength to forgive and love yourself.

You are loved.

-Rev. Katherine Ebling, Pastor of Prayer