Tag Archive | shame

For His Eyes Only

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. It isn’t the only one his eyes have gazed upon. That number would be in the hundreds. Likely thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. There becomes a point where the amount becomes meaningless. The magic number is one. Me. Anything beyond that is inviting someone else into the center of our marriage. Into the core of his heart and mind. Where only I am supposed to be.

My husband has been successfully battling his porn and sex addiction for 3 ½ years. He hasn’t done it perfectly, but neither has he had any serious relapses. Occasionally, I ask him when the last time was he masturbated. Or looked at sexually explicit or arousing images. (You know, just in case we define lust and pornography differently.) I am pleased with his answers and trust their truthfulness. He has received such healing and freedom from his addiction that his heart change is evident. In the way he loves, cherishes, admires, serves me. How he spends time with me talking, hanging out, laughing. The hugs and kisses. His presence emotionally and physically. Our growing intimacy. Behaviours and attitudes that were glaringly and painfully absent throughout our porn ravaged sexless marriage.

One of the most terrifying things I have done in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma, and at any time in my life, was undress for the first time in front of my husband after twenty five years of his sexual shaming and rejection of me. I fought my fear and anxiety as I vulnerably and shakily removed my bra to expose the breasts that had so often received his undeserved criticism. Knowing that if I caught even a fleeting look on my husband’s face of disgust, disapproval, disappointment or an attempt to conceal any of those reactions, I was risking further damage to my soul and the possibility that any hope of building intimacy could be lost forever.

My husband didn’t laugh, or gag, or cover his eyes, or run from the room screaming. He slowly smiled. Slowly, not because it seemed that he was trying to find an appropriate response. Slowly, as if he was drinking in and appreciating this new sight. I relaxed slightly.

But a problem remains. Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. And his apparent disinterest causes my heart to ache. Still.

I have asked my husband why I never catch him either obviously or surreptitiously watching me change or undress. Although I don’t want my body to be sexually objectified, I still need assurance that my body is noticed, admired and desired by my husband. I want to feel pretty and beautiful and sexy, not just through my own eyes, but my husband’s as well.

He told me that he is trying to be respectful. It’s hard to argue with that. But I wonder if the reason he offers is just a morally acceptable, and perhaps kind, deflection of a disinterest or aversion to my body. I have also questioned whether it is related to the recovery tools he uses to overcome lust and his porn addiction. That in his attempts to rewire his brain, he exorcises my body along with the fantasies. I never received a satisfactory answer. Which makes the first scenario the most likely. And also the most hurtful.

If, and when, I accept the respectfulness factor as the truth, that leaves me with another shaming dilemma. I enjoy looking at my husband’s naked body. And though I don’t lustfully gawk and ogle, or say anything distasteful or inappropriate, I don’t hide the fact with my eyes or words that I am admiring what I see. But logically, if he believes it is disrespectful to look at my nakedness, then it is also wrong for me to look at his.

Either way I feel shame, guilt and disappointment. That my husband declines to behold my nudity, even knowing that I welcome it. That I take pleasure in the sight of his. And that this is one more way his sex addiction has stolen freedom from our bedroom and my ability to express and experience healthy sexuality.

I no longer take my time openly undressing, hoping to notice my husband peeking at my body with desire and appreciation. I have returned to my old habits of changing in darkness, with my back to him, under the covers, removing my bra without removing my shirt. Whatever it takes to conceal the vulnerability of my physical self.

As we lay in bed talking about our day, I now refrain from strategically lowering the blanket and positioning my body to offer a glimpse of what is underneath my pyjama top. Instead, I tuck the quilt under my chin and over my shoulders completely covering my body from exposure to my husband’s eyes. Ironically, he finds this look adorable.

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. My hope is that one day that will be a joy filled reason to celebrate rather than a reason to cry.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:18,19

When God Rips Off the Band-Aid

God didn’t rip the band-aid off my wounds with one quick yank. He gently eased it off, controlling the procedure and allowing me time to adjust to the discomfort.

The unravelling of my carefully bound heart began while sitting in a gynecologist’s office as I provided my medical history:

“When was the last time you had intercourse?”

“Well, it’s been awhile.”

“A few weeks?”

“Um, well, um….” Thinking if I stall long enough, say enough ums, he might give up on receiving an answer and carry on to the next question. But no, he waits patiently and expectantly for a response. “Ten years,” I nervously mumble directing my answer to my shoes. It is a lie.

A look of confusion crosses his face. He looks down at his clipboard. “I thought you said you were married?”

“Yes. I am.”

This doctor does not have a poker face. Apparently doctors have not seen and heard it all. I wonder what his reaction would have been if I had spoken the truth, that it had been twenty years without sexual intimacy, a kiss, a hug, my hand being held by the man who vowed to love and cherish me. I grow increasingly uncomfortable, feeling my face becoming flushed. My mind is racing, searching for safety, but it is too late to protect myself. This man now knows how terribly flawed I am. I want to tell him that it isn’t my fault. It isn’t my choice to have a sexless marriage. It isn’t because of me.

The rest of the appointment is agonizingly cruel as I place my feet in the stirrups and resist the doctor’s attempts to take a sample from my uterus for a biopsy. My female sexual anatomy is betraying me. Mocking me. Again. First by existing, and now by being defective. My husband has rejected these parts of my body and so have I. The irony is not lost on me.

Leaving my appointment, the shame of my damaged sexuality engulfs me. It weighs as heavily upon me as the prospect of cancer. My thoughts shift back and forth between the two. What emerges is the certainty that I will not tell my husband that I am waiting for test results. The possibility of a cancer diagnosis is scary enough, but the belief that my husband would not care is unbearable. I did not have the strength to face both my health issues and his indifference. Either felt like a death sentence.

Before the week was over, my husband confronted me. My mask was fracturing under the stress. My irritability was making us miserable. I admitted that I was waiting for the results of a biopsy. My husband asked why I had not told him what was going on. I lied. I didn’t want you to worry, I replied. When in all truthfulness it was me I was attempting to protect, not him.

Seated in the doctor’s office a month later, I experience the relief of a no cancer diagnosis. I learn that I will still require surgery to remove uterine polyps and my heart sinks when I am told that I will need someone to accompany me to the hospital. I question if it is necessary for someone to drive me home after my surgery or if it is just a recommendation. The doctor looks at me curiously, and logically asks “Won’t your husband come with you?” I mumble that I don’t know. I feel so alone. Exposed.

My doubts and fears were grounded. I am struck by my husband’s reaction to my surgery, “Will I have to take the whole day off work?” A stranger would have responded more compassionately.

That was the moment the last of the band-aid was torn off, uncovering the ugly wounds of my marriage and allowing the breath of God to alight on my scars. It was now time for God, my Creator, my Jehovah Rapha, to take my hand in His and guide me on an incredible, miraculous, healing journey to wholeness beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

Hope does not put us to shame.

“You are not wanted!!” Have you heard those words?

Whether flung carelessly or with intent, the impact those words had on your heart left an imprint.sad

No one wants to hear those words…..in our workplace, in our job interviews, in our relationships, in our community, or from someone we love deeply and trust.

No matter where the words come from they can influence our decisions and often drive us to be more, to do more, all in order to never hear those words again.
They can cause us to live our lives in fear. When we live fearing to never hear those words again we can find ourselves living as someone who strives to be loved and cherished, not for who we are but for what we can do or who we can become in order to accepted.

words hurt
And we fear failing….therefore we strive all the harder…..in our parenting, in our friendships that seem to always end up as one way relationships, in our giving more then our 100% in our work place, in seeking approval from those in authority…..why, because we fear not being enough….we fear failing….we fear stopping the roller coaster because our worth is based on what we can do and not who we are.

What would happen to us if we stopped doing and simply offered our authentic, plain selves?
What would happen if we allowed ourselves the grace to be simply who we are instead of offering ourselves to others from that place of wounding- letting the words of not being wanted, or good enough, or pretty enough, or strong enough, or successful enough, or smart enough, or having what it takes define us….what then….

free or hiding

The power of words.
Words that have the power to wound us still….. often making us feel smaller then we already are feeling. Or maybe they make us feel coerced into getting over what we just can’t seem to get over. Words that make us feel more alone…..standing on the outside…..not feeling loved, understood or accepted.

Take a moment to look into the soul of that small child within you who felt the full power of words that wounded. The small child who felt crushed. Lonely. Abandoned. Forgotten. Beat Up. Broken. Humiliated. Take a moment to allow Jesus to speak His WORDS into that tender soul.
What might you hear Him say….

He sees you
He hears you
He knows you
He gathers you to Him
He holds you
He understands you
He is with you always
He is preparing a place for you, just for you
He knows you
He comforts you
He is that place of safety for you
He lifts your head
He looks into your eyes with a love that goes deeper and transcends all words and wounds
He wants you to be real, because He is real
He doesn’t give up on you
And He asks you to not give up on that small child either……

He asks you to risk, risk trusting Him…..trust Him when you find yourself wanting to be yourself yet you are afraid to be loved and known. He asks you let Him love the child within you….will you let Him?


Romans 5:5 (ESV)
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Self-Contempt or Other-Contempt


A reader, Cindy, asked the question on this post (https://tearsinabottle.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/self-contempt-meets-surrender-and-grace/) regarding other-contempt and rather than try and answer it there I decided to write a separate post about it.

Thank you Cindy for your question on other- contempt….although I don’t have it all figured out, I have found that as Jesus continues to uncover and reveal those areas that I keep hidden and don’t want disclosed, as I bring them to Him, exposing the true nature of my heart and the wounds that still need His healing touch, He gently, in love, touches those raw places with His healing balm and brings truth, peace and restoration….. Your question was timely.

Like you Cindy, I too, understood self-contempt very well, but other-contempt is a bit harder to identify I think….perhaps because we don’t really want to take a good, hard look at ourselves. The reasons may be varied, but I wonder if it is because we are afraid we won’t like what we find and maybe even deeper because we fear rejection from our Heavenly Father….we are afraid of being exposed and struggle to trust that His heart for us is good.

It has been said that “contempt” is a form of hatred, whether it be self-contempt or other-contempt……as victims of abuse we know all too well that “shame” is intense and when it afflicts you, you feel exposed and naked.
But did you know that contempt is an emotion as powerful as hatred….contempt is strong enough to cover or numb your feelings of shame.
Contempt hardens the heart by causing us to view others (or ourselves) through a lens of hatred.

As Dan Allender says; “The lens anaesthetizes desire at the same time it negates disappointment. Contempt sneers at desire and sees it as foolish and futile. Cynicism and sarcasm mock the foibles of others in order to gain safety from involvement with frail humanity or an unpredictable God.”

Shame leaves us feeling exposed and unprotected, vulnerable, weak and powerless….shame leaves us wanting to protect and guard ourselves and hatred or contempt gives you the feeling of power so that you don’t have to feel anxious, needy or dependant.
Often we will show contempt for others by using resentment and/or anger to build walls so that others will not see our pain and shame if they get too close to us.
Contempt for others is an expression of shame that says “I hate you”…. it doesn’t matter whether or not we say it out loud to the other person, other-contempt will eventually manifest itself.
Too often when our shame is exposed to someone else, we become filled with rage….why, because we are terrified of being rejected on the basis of our revealed hearts, so we choose to act in ways that will destroy the relationship.

Contempt is a belittling of the person, of their words, actions or motives, either to their face or behind their backs. When we use all our effort to make the other person look small it is an attempt to make ourselves look significant, important, powerful and in control. Often this will show itself in the tone we use, in our eyes, and in the content of our conversation.

It has been said that the goal of contempt is to discredit and steal dignity so the victor can remain in control, unfazed by any different view of reality.
Here are some ways which other-contempt might look like in relationships, and there are additional ways we can show contempt for others, perhaps some even come to your mind as you are reading this…..

• Do I tend to blame others so that I don’t have to look at myself?
• Do I walk away from someone who may be speaking the truth to me, do I write them off!
• Do I allow others to walk all over me?
• Do I compare myself to others and then feel either inferior or superior?

We need to be vigilant against jealousy and envy when it comes to relationships….God does not want us to compare ourselves with others….but it is a challenge, especially when we haven’t recognized other-contempt.

I believe it was Staci Eldredge who said: “staying in relationship with another person requires first that we stay in relationship with God. He is the only way we can navigate through jealousies, other-contempt, comparisons and hatred that rear their ugly heads or offences from others that prick our vulnerable hearts.”
Most of our healing and change of heart doesn’t always happen instantly, at the moment of our conversion….rather God invites us to walk it out…..He invites us into the process….our journey to get there takes place in our everyday lives…the often muddy, gritty, and stormy here and now. And it is in this place that Jesus comes.
God invites us to join him in the process whereby He heals our hearts, our inner world so He can transform our outer world.
Friends, Jesus loves you….yes, you….the you that has carried this heavy load of baggage….God does not turn His face away from us in our imperfections and weaknesses, neither does He turn His face away when we struggle with contempt for ourselves or others…and He is not surprised….right here, right now, you are loved and pursued and seen by the ONE who sees everything.
Let HOPE rise my friend….it is not too late, it is not too hard, you are not too much or not enough….God’s mercies are new every morning.
Beloved, there is mercy in His eyes even now!!

“Father God, I bring to you my heart that is bound up with other-contempt….it took me a long time to realize that my heart was hard and filled with this emotion…thank you for revealing this to me, whether through others who loved me enough to say the “hard words” or whether it was through your Holy Spirit, either way, thank you for exposing it to me….not to heap more condemnation on me (I know all too well how to do that), not to beat me up or make me feel more shame…but for uncovering this area of wounding so that I can bring it to you, to lay it at your feet, to confess it for what it is…sin against others, sin against you….we are called to love others as we love ourselves, but when we find it so hard to love ourselves it is nearly impossible to love others in a healthy, life giving way….Holy Spirit, bring to our minds those areas in our lives that need to be exposed to your truth….show us where we have wounded others and in doing so brought judgement upon ourselves…as we bring each situation and person to the cross, we ask that you forgive us….forgive us for envy, for jealousy, for critical spirits, and as we lay each person we feel contempt for at your feet we would ask that you replace the hatred and condemnation with truth, peace, love and healing….fill us Jesus with your Holy Spirit….heal those raw places that need your love, restore our relationships, bring peace and love to them…help us to walk in freedom and victory, seeing others through your eyes….seeing ourselves through your eyes….teach us what it means to love ourselves and in turn love others, in a healthy, life-giving way…trusting YOU at all times….
We pray these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….the one who loves us with an everlasting love, the ONE who has promised He would never leave us or forsake us….In His name, AMEN!

I would love to hear from you, those who follow my blog- what your thoughts are regarding other-contempt….how has God revealed this area to you? How have you worked through it? Have you found healing from other-contempt?

A perfect life or a perfect God

Something happened this week that triggered hurt and angry emotions for me….this hasn’t happened in such a long time…a trigger that seems to push my “buttons” is when someone says something to me that makes me feel “foolish” or “stupid”…and then shame soon follows and doesn’t  want to let go…it hangs on with a tenacity that sucks the life right out of me. And then I find myself “beating myself up” again, emotionally….feeling totally defeated. It’s an old pattern that trips me up from time to time.

Then the next day I was taking a day trip so I had a total of 7 hours of driving alone. It gave me time to pour out my heart to God, to talk and to listen….. As I drove, with tears blurring my eyes, I simply spoke aloud to God all that I was feeling

 His Words back to me in the silence of the car was simply this: “you extend grace to others so easily, when are you going to extend grace to yourself?”

He nailed it!! But what does extending grace to myself look like? As I continued pouring out my heart to Him I confessed that I was tired of beating myself up, tired of not forgiving myself….I cried out to Him admitting that I am not perfect, I make mistakes, I sin, I am not like so and so, I am tired of trying to be like everyone else, or tired of trying to please everyone else….I just want to be me…to be who my Heavenly Father created me to be….I want to be authentic…and true and real….the pain was real and raw and as I spoke each word I sensed His presence….eventually His peace filled the car…..

Words that a kind counselor said to me years ago came back to my mind- “you need to cut yourself some slack!!” As it was then, I struggle with this. What does this really look like?

Striving, living in fear of making mistakes, performance based living….is a crazy dance that involves jumping through hoops repeatedly. Trying to be a good Christian makes me tired and worn out-exhausted in my own efforts. Just thinking about it leaves me feeling tired, and the goal of a perfect life seems even more elusive.

It’s tiresome focusing my energy and devotion on pleasing other Christians and striving to make myself more desirable in my own eyes, or trying to earn acceptance and value based on what I do.

Jumping through hoops puts the emphasis on doing rather than being, on personal performance rather than abiding in Perfection.

I read today that God does not demand perfection in you. God is not expecting you to measure up. God never thought that you could live the Christian life, nor does he expect that you could actually meet his holy standards. If he thought that you could, he wouldn’t have come to earth to die for you. But he did.

It is the difference between independently trying to perform for God, verses depending on God and relying on him to live through you. We do not mature into independence from God. We mature only by remaining dependent upon him, and that’s the way he wants it. He wants you to enjoy the freedom and love of being in relationship with him, trusting him, depending upon him. He is not expecting you to perform for him.

 I know in my head the ONLY thing we are called to do in this life is to be the beautiful, unique human being God created each of us to be. Human beings are NOT perfect. A few years ago the Lord began the work of stripping away my perfectionism….He spoke to my heart about AUTHENTICITY. And I soon realized that perfectionism is one of the primary blocks to authenticity. We are called to be WHOLE, not perfect. Now if these truths could just move from my head to my heart!!

This past year God repeatedly seems to be speaking to me about grace….little did I know that authenticity and grace would one day meet!!

When we read about Job in Scripture we find that after all of Job’s long trials and a deep depression, he made a statement near the end of the book named after him. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5, NIV).

That is how I felt driving in the car that day…no longer were those words such a mystery to me but they began to make sense. As long as I continue trying to achieve my own perfection, or a perfection someone else demanded of me, I continue to hold Him so far away that I really only hear of Him.

But the moment I give up and embrace my utter weaknesses and failures, Christ reveals Himself in a way that has me “desiring for” and “longing after” Him.

Shame based way of living…..

When we have lived a shamed-based way of living for so long, letting go of this way of living and thinking is scary. It leaves us feeling vulnerable and wondering who we really are. Eventually, parents’ “you are” statements to children become internalized as “I am” identity concepts. This, along with abuse, causes such self-shaming that it becomes who we are….and this painful cycle of shame continues, gaining momentum with each passing day.

When we begin our journey of healing we often feel that we will never escape from its destructive pattern. It has become so much a part of us that we feel lost and vulnerable without it…we question then who we are. I remember so well the feelings of “who am I”? Who was I then if I wasn’t who I had lived my life believing I was? It’s a scary place to be. I remember one time when it came to picking a paint color for my bedroom, something that should have been so simple, caused me to come undone….I had no idea what my favorite color even was!! I didn’t know myself, who I really was…I was so used to being who and what every one else thought I should be….praise God I am no longer there….but it took time, it took days ,months even years of floundering in this recovering process.

It is hard, humbling work. It can be a slow, difficult and often painful process….but we are not alone, with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 40:31) we will soar on the wings of eagles…run and not grow weary….[or at least] walk and not faint. I can honestly say that there are fewer “fainting” days and more “running” and “soaring” days than there used to be.

And I have learned that living in the recovering process means traveling a new path and following a new map….who you truly are emerges over time….it doesn’t happen over night….as I began the journey of  healing there were many floundering days…yet, over time as I continued to heal who I really am began to emerge… As children we were taught to turn away from truth and evade it…but recovering from binding shame begins when we turn toward truth and embrace it….the truth about our families and truth about ourselves.

Psalm 34

1 I will praise the Lord at all times.
      I will constantly speak his praises.
 2 I will boast only in the Lord;
      let all who are helpless take heart.
 3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
      let us exalt his name together. 

 4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
      He freed me from all my fears.
 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
      no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
      he saved me from all my troubles.
 7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
      he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.
      Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

The Man With No Face

I am small in my bed.  I must be five or six.  I am on the bottom bunk.  I look up at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above me.  The glow-in-the-dark stars are there so I won’t be afraid.  There’s an amazing mural painted on the wall.  The Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball.  My mom painted it.  My mom is the best artist I know.  Two squares of light appear in the corner and move slowly across the wall, then disappear into the closet.  After a minute they appear again, this time starting from the closet and moving in the opposite direction.  The fading whine and rumble was louder that time.  Must have been a truck.

There is someone in my room.  It’s a man.  His hair is black.  He is over me.  I am being squished.  I am being pushed.  I can’t breathe right.  His hand is over my mouth.  His hand is on my mouth and I can’t scream.  My hips are being pushed down, down deep into the bed.  I struggle to get free, but I can’t.  I can’t move.  I am too small.  The man is too big.  Pain washes over me.  Waves of pain.  Wave after wave of unbearable, unimaginable pain.  Oh God, make it stop.  Please make it stop!  I am being punished.  I am being vivisected.  I am … BAD!

   In my memory, there is something strange about the man’s face.  It’s all gray.  It’s missing.  Somehow I took a giant pink eraser and rubbed it out from the picture.  The man’s identity was something I refused to see.  It was the truth I refused to know.

The Blame Game

When I write down my stories and read them back to myself, they sound bad. If a different person somewhere in the world had stories exactly like mine and one day told her stories to me, I would feel sorry for her. I would understand if that person were sad or angry or had problems dealing with her life. But I don’t feel that way about myself. When I think of something that happened to me, something that still hurts and affects me, I tell myself impatiently, “it wasn’t that bad.”

My parents had a bad fight when I was nine. My brother and I snuck in to watch. They were in the living room. She was lying on the floor. He was sitting on her. His hands were around her neck, pushing down hard. The memory is fuzzy right after that. Maybe my dad noticed we were watching and decided to let her go. My mom got up and ran out. It was dark. It was raining. It was muddy outside. I felt guilty for being warm and dry when my mom was cold and wet, so I grabbed her coat and ran to her. I walked around in the rain for a long time trying to find her. When I found her, I gave her the coat and walked away. Taking her a coat was all I could do to fix it.

My mom and I had a bad fight years later. Before I knew what was happening, I was lying on the floor. She was sitting on me. Her hands were moving toward my neck and I thought back to that rainy night. This is what that must have felt like, I thought. She put her hands not around my neck, but a few inches higher. Her hands went around my chin and pushed down hard. My dad had given her something she didn’t know what to do with. She couldn’t keep it forever and she didn’t know how to get rid of it, so she tried to give it to me. The look in her eyes and the fury in her screams told me that more than anything at that moment; she wished she could kill me. If she could kill me she could be better; she could be happy and free. I felt guilty for being happy and free when my mom was burdened with so much pain. I didn’t want to die, but at that moment I wished the consequences would be removed from her so she could do it. So I took her pain and wrapped it up. I pushed it down deep inside myself and kept it for her. I still have it. Taking her pain was all I could do to fix it.

When you start keeping pain that belongs to other people, it’s hard to stop. When something goes wrong, I take the blame. It’s the game I play. I’ve gotten so used to it, that the pain almost feels good. At least it feels familiar. Blame feels like a burning on the skin of my arms and chest. It feels like a punch in the stomach. Not taking the blame feels scary and unpredictable. Taking the blame feels safe.

Now God wants me to stop playing the Blame game. He is asking too much of me. I don’t know how, and to be honest I’m not sure I want to. I don’t believe I can do it. It’s more than I have to give. I’m terrified of the pain inside of me. I want it safely wrapped away; pushed down where it can’t hurt anyone but me. I can handle it. I’m used to it. It’s no big deal. It’s not that bad.