Finding Our Way Out of Depressive Thoughts: Toxic Shame

By Nancy Virden (c)2020

Shame is a good thing. Really! Without shame for wrongdoing, there would be no rehabilitation, no fresh starts, no recovery, and no change. We must feel ashamed so that our heart is ready to apologize and mean it.

Toxic shame is different. In the last two posts, we have looked at self-doubt and hopelessness. Today, we will see what marks shame as toxic and harmful.

Toxic Shame

They tell me I’m bad so it must be true. Last time I saw Josie twenty years ago, I lost my temper. I am too ashamed to face her. I cannot go to God with my problems; I’ve done too much wrong.  Oh, that thing that happened…I’ll never tell anyone about it.  Forgive myself?  I wish I could.

Toxic shame has total destruction potential. Our ability to interact with others is affected. We may be obnoxious or especially quiet to cover up what we feel. Toxic shame separates us from enjoying love from others and from fully grasping God’s love for us.

Anxiety and ulcers can result.  Living in fear of being found out might keep us stuck in a job or a house. Toxic shame replays old tapes in our head, especially at night as we lay our heads down to sleep. Distracted, we miss the here and now.

Toxic shame’s co-conspirator is mindreading. It is difficult believing that others have forgiven or forgotten our mistakes. We do not take people’s words at face value. Toxic shame assumes we are judged by everyone like we judge ourselves. 

Toxic shame cannot hold a candle to God’s mercy

God doesn’t judge us like that. He never expects perfection from humans. Psalm 103:14 reads, “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” By refusing to forgive ourselves we assume positions of authority as if we are greater than God. He forgives, but we answer, “not me. I’m too messed up.” 

A sincere or contrite (broken over sin) heart, our loving heavenly Father will not refuse! While we rehearse old scenarios, he forgives generously.  And get this! He does not hold old stuff against us. He delights in loving us. It’s his joy to forgive and even forget our shameful acts. 

Micah 7:18-19 puts it this way, “You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!”

By placing our faith in Jesus Christ, shame holds no more power. He has laid out a process for letting shame go, and that is to trust him, confess and make amends, and to live a new kind of life. Our thoughts can stop shutting us down as we remember, I have been fully accepted by God

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Corinthians 15-18
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them…
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 


Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
















    • Yes, absolutely! I agree it would be great if it were taught well at home and in schools. Shame can begin at a young age. As for hopelessness, shame is a cycle that beats us up. I needed the Highest Power to take it from me. Thank you for you comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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