Anger. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Fear. Thousands of people are suffering from toxic emotions that poison their souls, stymie their family lives, and hinder their relationship with God. Countless Christians are saved, sanctified and set apart for God’s use, yet toxic emotions sometimes rear their ugly heads to contaminate our lives. One of the strongest contaminates to Christian living is shame, the most painful of all the emotions. Where do these harmful feelings come from and, more importantly, how can we rid ourselves of these detrimental temperaments? It all started in the Garden and it can end with the love of Jesus.
We all know Adam and Eve’s story and its sad conclusion. But before sin came in they were absolutely and totally shame-free. There was no need for masks (or fig leaves, for that matter). They weren’t in pain emotionally, spiritually or physically. They had a true transparent intimacy with their Creator. That same intimacy is God’s will for us all.
Well, you know the story. That old serpent came in with temptation and both fell from grace. Suddenly, sin made them painfully aware of their separation from God and their emotional vulnerabilities (Genesis 3:7). Sin opened the door for many toxic emotions and they quickly groped for ways to hide their newly found negative feelings. Their emotional cover-ups quickly became part of their personalities. Thousands of years later the same cycle of hiding shameful toxic emotions is repeating itself in believers and unbelievers alike. It’s time to break that ancient cycle.
Shame is not only an unhealthy emotion – it’s downright poisonous. We know shame is part of the fall of man. But what many people may not realize is that shame is the root of many other toxic emotions, including hatred, arrogance, fear, blame, and self-absorption. It also causes many broken relationships. Shame won’t allow you to be vulnerable enough to develop a deep and trusting friendship. It keeps you from feeling fully connected and intimate with God and others. When relationships sour, for example, the shamed person refuses to take responsibility because shame makes them feel desperately bad and anxious. Yet there is good news, healthy emotions are right around the corner. All you have to do is allow God to pull out the root of shame.
Shame wants to hide. It doesn’t want you to see your own negative emotions and behaviors for what they often are, shame-based. Often times we shut out painful memories and negative empty feelings unaware that God wants to set us free. The devil will try to keep shame hidden, but when it is hidden it can’t be worked out. Toxic emotions, including shame, can only be healed when they are brought into the light. Like every lethal emotion, shame must be named.
Perhaps in examining yourself you’ve noticed internal defenses that have kept you in denial. Determined to be free and in spite of the pain, however, you’ve decided to be honest with yourself and call these negative emotions what they are. If that’s you, then it’s time to surrender everything that is connected to shame to the Lord, and by faith and patience, allow Him to challenge the lies that have kept you in the pits of emotional darkness. This is what I call the action phase for healing painful emotions. Whether you suffer from toxic emotions or know someone who does, consider the following steps to freedom.
Get help from God and man
The majority of your help comes from God. He is the first one you should confide in. When God comes in, the ugly issues of our lives are exposed. Shame can’t remain in the darkness where it festers and poisons our relationships. Get alone with God and talk to Him about what you have learned about yourself. Tell Him how mad you are. Talk to Him about your sadness, disappointments, and every other negative feeling you have buried alive. He already knows it all and He still loves you.
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It’s also important to realize that as a human being there is a natural God-given desire to talk to others, too. Once you’ve decided to get free, there’s no reason to keep it to yourself. Jesus told people to go and tell someone. Sharing what you are going through with others is important because, although we’d like to, most of us can’t hear God in a crystal clear manner 24 hours a day. Our God is a relational and interactive God, and encourages us to be the same with others. Remember that God can use other people in your life as healing instruments. Let Him.
I don’t admonish you to recall deep and painful incidents by yourself. Some memories are so painful that they leave you feeling too vulnerable to handle alone. Sometimes you need to talk them out with others. Within a safe environment, talking creates trust and trust opens the door to love and healing. Sharing with others also helps us to identify or pinpoint problems. By not confiding in anyone, we allow ourselves to feel responsible and guilty for things that have nothing to do with who we really are.
Take small things first
Healing of toxic emotions is one step at a time. “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and are numerous enough to take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:30 AMP). As we work toward emotional healing, layer by layer, we are building strength and understanding for each phase of freedom. Step by step, little by little, area by area, we receive our healing. One touch of healing by the Spirit of God will open the door for more healing.
Enter into deep repentance
Repentance is the foundation for healing toxic emotions. Once revelation of detrimental feelings come and you’ve processed the defenses and expressions in your life, take those things to God and repent for them. There is no freedom except you repent. Repentance allows you to go beyond the fig leaves you’ve probably worn all your life. The fact is toxic emotions are the very things that have caused you to miss the mark. Don’t be concerned about placing blame. Accept your role in your behavior and repent. God moves through the power of repentance. It’s a spiritual law when activated, totally cleanses and restores us.
Engage in meditative prayer
In your private hours, spend time with the Lord. When you’re in His presence, gently talk with Him about the issues in your heart. Sometimes, when a shameful area is opened you’ll feel the presence of the shame for a couple of days. The reason you may feel this pain is so the shame can flow out. Many times there is a release of upsetting (toxic) emotions, sorrow, feeling of loss, and grief. Let these flow out to the Lord; but if it’s too much to bear, ask a trusted prayer warrior to help you.
Invite God in
Once you’re in God’s presence, allow Him to come “all the way in.” You’re not going to hide behind your defenses any longer. Those defenses were a cover-up. Not only did they keep others out but most likely they kept the most important person out - God. It might feel scary at first because you are used to hiding behind those fig leaves, but explore those feelings. Once you see them, don’t hold on to them. Surrender. Through your surrender the process of healing will begin. Then those emotions that were paralyzing you begin to move out of the place within, and the toxic emotion becomes dislodged. As you expand into that intimate moment with God in prayer, with everything surrendered before Him, ask Him to heal you.
Ask God to transform the pain: While you’re totally surrendered in the presence of God, open up and be vulnerable to Him. As you feel His love hovering upon you, ask Him to transform the way you’ve felt. As you believe for Him to exchange your pain for His healing, ask for more knowledge about those emotions. The more knowledge He gives you, the further your healing will progress. The process of transformation will bring great liberty, freedom, and joy to you.
Forgive those who have hurt you
The ability to forgive belongs to you. Those who don’t forgive, however, never get total freedom from toxic emotions. Holding onto resentment and bitterness always gives the devil a right to torment you but God has given us a way out, forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be very difficult for some. Many believe forgiveness involves forgetting what has happened. It doesn’t. God designed forgiveness as part of the releasing process to cleanse your soul from hurts and wounds. It doesn’t matter what others have done to you. When you choose to forgive others painful memories can no longer play an emotional tug-of-war within your soul. Let the healing process begin; forgive those who have hurt you.
Receive supernatural help
In the action phase for healing toxic emotions, there is always an ample supply of supernatural help. The grace of God, which is the power of God, can supernaturally change any situation, no matter how difficult it may seem. You can call on the fire of God to purge and cleanse your soul. You can plead the Blood of Jesus to reign over your life and cover anything contrary to the holiness and truth of God. Jesus loves you and divine protection is available. Even angels are sent to minister to you and serve you. God will also help you find good, safe people that He will use in your life.
Renew your mind
Healing produces a supernatural love within your heart. Without love, we’re compared to a clanging cymbal that makes a lot of noise but has little substance. Once toxic emotions have been destroyed in our lives, we’ll begin to read the Word in a new way. Scriptures we’ve read a thousand times will have a new and deeper meaning. As you read the Word, allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind with new thoughts; then take those new thoughts captive and believe them with all of your heart. Speak them out and watch your life change for the best.
Look for behavioral changes: Behavior changes will come with time; but this time it will be exciting because you understand what is happening. When you feel negative emotions rolling around inside of you, pause, think, and refuse to act on them. Just let them pass through and directly to Jesus your healer. Your shame has been healed. You don’t have to go to the place of allowing your emotions to become toxic anymore. You can take yourself out of the situation through prayer as you learn how to live a new life by managing your emotions.
Remain in the present
Most importantly, enjoy today. Don’t try to go too far into your past and don’t venture too far into your future. Enjoy right where you are today. Relax and seek to be fulfilled in every area of your life. For many this may be the first time in your life that you’ve actually loved yourself. Toxic emotions have kept you on such a rollercoaster that you didn’t recognize your own value and potential in Christ.
Now, however, when you praise the Lord it comes from a new heart and from a deeper sense of thankfulness. Once shame and pain are removed, no matter your age, you’ll finally see what life is all about. It’s a walk you take everyday, step by step. Others in your life may never change; but you have, and you can change even more. I encourage you to continue on your journey of self-discovery and a deeper relationship with God.