You’re not alone.
As my now husband and I were dating, we felt shame for our sexual desires. We chose to avoid sex before marriage, but longed for “oneness.” No one told us this was normal, healthy even, and that God created us as sexual beings. The fact that we desired sex revealed that we were two healthy humans. Instead of praising God for our heathy bodies, we felt embarrassed for desiring something off limits.
Enter sexual shame into our relationship.
This was not the first time I experienced shame. I felt the need to hide my sexual desires as a young single woman. I felt shame after going too far with my high school boyfriend, and after my dad found a hickey on my neck, and after experiencing sexual abuse.
Many things can make us experience sexual shame. We feel sexual shame when…
- When we feel humiliation about our sexual desires.
- When people say things like, “If you lost more weight, you’d have better chances of getting a boyfriend.”
- When people say, “Your abuse was your fault because of your outfit.”
Sexual shame does not come from God. He created us as sexual beings, and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen. 1:31). Even when Jesus was presented with a woman caught in the act of adultery he did not belittle or degrade her. He showed her compassion and told her to stop sinning. (Check out 3 Bible Verses for Healing from Sexual Shame)
Guilt Versus Shame
There is a difference between guilt and shame. As believers, we can confess our sins, which frees us from guilt. The apostle John wrote of Christ, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). After confessing our sins, we can live free from our guilt because of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Guilt comes from making a mistake, but shame takes that guilt to a whole new level. For example, if we struggle with pornography and we mess up and feel bad about it, we feel guilt. Shame says, “I am the mistake.” Popular research professor Brené Brown explains the difference: “Shame is I am bad. Guilt is I did something bad.” Shame comes from a sense of “there being something wrong with me” or of “not being enough,” and feeling powerless to change our condition or circumstances.
Shame creates a fear of being unworthy of love, specifically, the love of God and others. Without feeling worthy of that love, we continue to live in our sexual sin. We feel trapped, unable to escape. Why would God love us with our sexual sin? We think we can shed shame by shedding our clothes and giving our bodies over to others.
Feeling tainted by our own sexuality hinders our ability to give and receive love. It keeps us in a vicious cycle of sin and unworthiness.
Good news: Jesus came to free us from shame. Because of the crucifixion, those who trust in God will not endure shame. This truth comes directly from Scripture. The apostle Peter, who wept bitterly after he denied Jesus three times, wrote, “And the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Pet. 2:6, NIV).
Guilt is a sin issue, but shame is an identity issue. We must understand our identity in Christ to live out freedom from shame.
Sexual Shame and Abuse
No matter what we have done (sin) and no matter what has been done to us (abuse), Jesus can restore our dignity. We often feel shame for both, sin and abuse, but we must remember that sexual abuse is not our sin. As a victim of sexual abuse, I blamed myself, layering on guilt that belonged to someone else.
My freshman year of college, raped on day three, I struggled with blaming myself for the abuse. I went to his apartment planning to make out and leave. But he had a different plan. I told him no, countless times, but he still raped me on his tiny twin bed. The next morning I woke up, grabbed my stuff and walked home. I questioned God. Was he there? Did he let this happen? Was he mad at me? Was this my fault? Why did this happen to me?
That night, the night I lost my virginity, I felt completely broken and worthless. I believed God would never love me again. I hated my body. I hated myself. I felt extreme sexual shame.
Shame makes us blame ourselves for being sexually abused. Shame lies to us, whispering that no one will ever love us. These feelings trap us and make us fear that even if we reached out to God he would not help us because we are damaged goods.
Breaking free from shame does not happen overnight. It took me many years, and I still find myself sinking back into this thought process on occasion. Despite this, I hold onto the truth that God has a specific purpose for my life, and that purpose does not include shame.
God has a perfect plan for you too. He created you in his image and he desires for you to live in freedom, knowing that he loves you completely.
Uncover the Shame and Wounds
Think back on your childhood—when did sexual shame first enter your life?
I can recall as early as five years old, running around naked at a family friend’s house with two other young children, one boy and one girl. I remember purposefully closing the door to hide what we were doing from our parents. No one had told us that we should not uncover ourselves in front of each other, yet we all felt this inner desire to hide our actions from our parents. At the end of that playdate, I walked downstairs to meet my parents and felt bad for what I had done. This was my first experience with sexual shame.
As years went on, the number of stories increased, experiencing shame so often that I questioned why God had made me “too sexual.” When we live in sexual shame, we begin to doubt God’s love for us. We wonder, “Can God really meet me in my brokenness? Can he really love me? Broken me?”
I invite you to explore your shame—uncover your wounds. Only then can you find healing through God. As you work through specific sexual issues, allow God to reveal the shame in your heart. Acknowledge the shame, expose it to the light of Jesus, and let his unconditional love heal your broken soul.
And remember, you’re not stupid for struggling with sexual shame, nor are you alone. Together, we will find healing and freedom in Christ. You are loved.And remember, you’re not stupid for struggling with sexual shame, nor are you alone. Together, we will find healing and freedom in Christ. You are loved. Click To Tweet