Shame, guilt, and regret. We’ve all made mistakes we aren’t proud of, but how do we deal with the shame and guilt that follows?
God tells us he forgives our sins in the Bible, but how do we overcome shame and move on from our past?
How do we move on to walk in freedom from shame when we are constantly reminded of our sins?
As someone who lived without God in my life for almost 29 years, I experienced a lot of shame, guilt, and regret when I became a Christian.
What will my women’s small group think of me when they find out I had sex last night, and am still struggling with porn and masturbation?
What will others think of me if they knew I almost got fired from my job because of a drinking problem?
We can’t avoid making mistakes or sin, but we can learn how to get rid of shame and guilt by receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about how to let go of shame and guilt, specifically:
In order to let go of shame in your life, it’s important to understand what shame is, and what causes it.
You can’t get rid of something if you don’t know what’s causing it. To get rid of shame, it’s important to understand the root if you want to walk in freedom from shame.
And it’s important to know the difference between shame vs. guilt.
Shame is most often used to describe a feeling associated with a sin or wrongdoing.
According to dictionary.com, shame is described as the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
Shame can make you feel unqualified, unworthy, or dirty for whatever wrongdoing took place.
When you’ve sinned or made a mistake and you feel awful for what you did, even after you’ve asked God for forgiveness, you’re likely experiencing shame.
But if you haven’t confessed your sin to God, you’re likely feeling guilty.
Guilt says, ‘I did something wrong’, while shame says, ‘Something is wrong with me.’
Guilt can actually be a good thing because it draws us closer to God to repent and receive his forgiveness.
But shame on the other hand, is not from God and can hold us back from walking in the forgiveness and freedom from shame that Jesus already gave us.
If you’re not sure if shame is holding you back, here are some symptoms of shame:
Shame can enter into your life a few different ways, but it’s important to understand that shame is not from God.
In the Bible, there are several scriptures about receiving God’s grace that show us that God does not shame us.
And there are many examples of shame in the Bible that show us that God does not want us to feel shame for our sins. Rather, he wants us repent of our sins and walk in freedom from shame.
This is the beauty of the gospel and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” - Colossians 2:13-14 NLT
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” - John 3:17 NLT
Jesus already forgave and paid the price for our sins, so we do not have to walk around in shame any longer.
So if shame doesn’t come from God, where does it come from?
The Devil wants us to feel shame
Shame is a tactic used by the Devil to hold us back from the freedom and life that God has for us.
In John 8, the Bible tells us that the Devil is the father of lies, and the Devil will do anything to convince us that we are unworthy of God’s forgiveness.
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” - John 8:44 CSB
The Enemy tells us that we need to be punished for our sins. But God tells us that we are forgiven, and that the penalty for our sins has already been paid through Jesus Christ.
The Enemy tells us that we don’t deserve God’s love or his grace, and that we don’t deserve good things because of what we’ve done.
But God says his grace is a gift, that all we have to do is repent and believe, and God also wants to restore us from our sin.
To illustrate, the Devil wants us to feel shame and to look like the woman in the first photo below. But God wants us to be free from shame, and wants us to look like the woman in the second photo.
To my friend reading this, which woman do you feel like right now?
The Devil wants us to feel shame and to constantly remind us of our past, but God urges us to forget the past and to focus on the freedom in Jesus Christ.
Shame can also come from the Church
Sadly, shame can also come from other Christians or the Church. This is why some churches get a bad reputation for judging people instead of loving people.
Some religious churches may preach or make people think that if you sin, that you’ll go to Hell and deserve to be punished for your sins.
Shame from the Church can cause people not to go to church at all, or not to speak up and ask for help out of shame or fear of being judged, ridiculed, or shamed.
This is why women in particular may feel afraid to reach out for help in the Church, especially when women have had an abortion, gone through sexual abuse or trauma, or are struggling in sexual sin.
But as we see above in the scriptures about how to deal with shame, this reaction is not in line with God’s Word.
It's good for the Church to point people to God's Word, but we are called to point others to Jesus out of love, not shame.
Churches that make people feel shame from their sins are acting like the Pharisees and religious teachers of the law from the Bible.
Back then, the religious teachers of the law and the Pharisees wanted to shame people for their sin. They wanted to publicly expose and embarrass someone who had sinned, resulting in a feeling of shame.
For example, in John 8, the Pharisees brought out a woman caught in adultery in front the crowd. Their intent was to shame her and to punish for her sins.
But Jesus shows us how we are to respond to shame. He challenges the crowd to throw the first stone if they have never sinned, and then he tells the woman caught in adultery that he does not condemn her, and to go and sin no more.
We see in this example of shame in the Bible that God does not want us to feel shame for our sins, rather, he wants us to repent and turn from our sins and he convicts us with love.
If you’ve experienced shame from a Church, I pray that God heals you from this experience and that you are able to find a community of believers that speak God’s truth in love.
Shame can be caused by something that was done to you
With shame, it’s important to understand that we can feel shame for something that we’ve done, or when something wrong was done to us.
When we sin and fall short of God’s Word, we can feel ashamed because of what we’ve done.
But we can also feel shame when a sin was done to us. For example, women that have been sexually assaulted can feel sexual shame because of what was done to them.
Sexual Shame from Sexual Abuse
If you are reading this and you have been abused or assaulted personally, I pray that any shame is broken off you in Jesus’ name, and I pray you can walk in freedom from shame from what was done to you.
Lisa Harper, Christian author and speaker, was sexually assaulted as a girl and shares her story of how shame and guilt kept her in bondage in her 20s and 30s.
Learn more about Lisa Harper’s testimony and how she was able to walk in freedom from shame in her life.
I also came across Joy Skarka’s blog, where she shares how she was raped as a freshman in college, and how she was able to heal from the abuse.
If you want more resources on freedom from sexual shame and abuse, check out Joy Skarka’s blog, where she specifically talks about how to overcome sexual shame and healing from sexual abuse.
Now that you know what shame is and where it comes from, you’ll be able to overcome shame and learn how to let go of shame in your life.
If you’re wondering, ‘how do I get rid of shame and regret’, below are 8 steps for letting go of shame:
We talk about each step to let go of shame below in more detail.
The first step in letting go of shame is to identify whether you’re feeling shame or guilt.
If you are feeling guilty for something you did and you haven’t surrendered it to God yet, it’s time to confess any sin to God (see step 2).
For example, if you feel guilty for not being equally yoked in dating by dating someone that doesn't have a relationship with God, it's time to surrender it to God and receive his forgiveness.
But if you’ve already repented and confessed your sin to God, you’re probably feeling shame. Learn how to believe that God has forgiven you in step 3.
If you are feeling guilty from sin or from something you did that was not honoring God, confess your sin and accept God’s forgiveness.
“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” - 1 John 1:8-9 NLT
“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” - Acts 3:19 NLT
Unconfessed sin can create distance from God. If you haven’t repented and confessed, now is the time my friend. Pray the prayer below to confess your sin to God.
Prayers for shame and guilt for unconfessed sin
God, I confess that I have sinned and what I did was wrong. I repent from my sin, and I ask for your forgiveness. I surrender this guilt and sin to you Lord, and I thank you that I have been forgiven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
After you’ve confessed your sin to God and repented from your old ways, you need to believe that God has forgiven you.
Accepting and believing that God has forgiven you is one of the most important steps of letting go of shame.
It is so important to meditate on God’s Word to overcome shame in your life. The more you read these bible verses for shame, the more you’ll believe that God has forgiven you, and the less shame you will feel.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” - Isaiah 1:18 NLT
“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” - Hebrews 8:12 NLT
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” - Psalm 103:3 NLT
If you need another reminder that Jesus has already forgiven your sins, listen to the worship song 'Clean' by Hillsong United. This is my favorite song to listen to when I need a reminder that I am forgiven and purified of my sins by Jesus' love.
Pray the prayer below to release shame and to accept God's forgiveness.
Prayer to release from shame & to accept God’s forgiveness
God, I thank you that you do not deal with me as my sins deserve. I thank you that you sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, and that I am forgiven. I believe that I have been forgiven, and I release my shame to you. I choose to walk in the freedom that Jesus Christ died to give me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Often the hardest part about letting go of shame is learning to forgive yourself.
When I was struggling with sexual sin and when I almost got fired from my job from binge drinking at a work happy hour, forgiving myself was the hardest part.
I knew that God had forgiven me, but it took a few months for me to forgive myself and let myself move on.
I kept rehearsing the past in my head, kicking myself for what I had done. I knew better, but I still made the same mistakes over and over again.
But as I surrendered my past and shame to God in prayers, He showed me that I needed to forgive myself.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” - Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
Since God had already forgiven me, I had to forgive myself.
Pray the prayer for shame below if you are struggling to forgive yourself for your past.
Prayers for shame and guilt to forgive yourself
God, I thank you that you’ve already forgiven me for my sins. Today, I choose to forgive myself for what I’ve done. If you have forgiven me Lord, I can forgive myself. I forgive myself, and I release any shame that I’ve been carrying. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
After you’ve confessed your sins to God and repented, consider confessing your sin to someone that you trust.
In James 5, the Bible says that there is power when we confess our sins to one another.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” - James 5:16
When we confess our sins to each other and ask for prayer, we are bringing the shame to the light.
Shame tells us to hide or cover up our sins, but the Bible tells us confess our sins to one another so we can be healed.
The more comfortable you are with confiding in others that you trust, the less power shame has over you. When you see that others love and support you and are there for you, you feel less shame from your past and more loved and accepted.
For example, when I admitted to my women's group at Church that I was still struggling with sexual sin from a past relationship, they were able to pray for me and break ungodly soul ties that had been holding me back.
This is the beauty of the body of Christ. To speak the truth with love, and to love and encourage one another.
Prayers for shame to reach out for help
God, I thank you for bringing people into my life that love and encourage me on this journey. Give me the courage to reach out and ask for help. Show me the people in my life that I can trust, and who will speak your truth in love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As you pray to let go of shame, praying against any spirit of shame that may be from the Enemy is another important step to letting go of shame in your life.
Like we discussed above, the Devil loves to make us feel shame for our past mistakes. The Enemy tries to convince us to believe that we aren’t good enough, or that we aren’t worthy to receive God’s grace.
If you are struggling to let go of shame, it’s important to know your authority against the Enemy, and to break and renounce the spirit of shame over your life.
In Luke 10, the Bible says that we have authority over the Devil, and that he must obey the name of Jesus.
“Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing at all will harm you.” – Luke 10:19 CSB
If you haven’t prayed against the Enemy before, ask someone that you trust to pray over you, or pray the prayer below.
The Enemy will do anything he can to keep you in bondage in shame, but if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have the authority to tell the Devil, and shame, to leave.
Prayers for Shame – Freedom from Shame
God, I thank you that you’ve given me authority over the Enemy. I renounce and break any agreement that I’ve had with shame. I have been forgiven for my sins, and I renounce the lie that I need to feel ashamed of what I’ve done. I declare shame to leave in Jesus’ name, and I declare that the power of shame has been broken in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The biggest way to let go of shame and walk in freedom from shame is to pray and declare God’s Word over your life.
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit—there is power when you pray and declare God’s Word.
When you declare what God’s Word says about shame, and that you’ve already been forgiven, you are reminding yourself that you do not need to carry shame.
Every Bible verse you pray is also a reminder to the Devil that shame has no power over you.
As you let go of shame in your life, pray and declare these bible verses about shame to continue to walk in freedom from shame.
As you meditate on God’s Word, you’ll be able to recite scriptures when the Enemy starts reminding you of your past.
The Devil loves to attack our thoughts and even our dreams, reminding us of our past mistakes.
As I write this, I’ve been married for a year and a half, but I still get dreams that I know are from the Devil because he is taunting me from my past mistakes.
How to let go of shameful memories
When dreams or thoughts from the past come up, it’s so important to recognize that these thoughts are not from God, and to reject them.
In 2 Corinthians, the Bible tells us to hold every thought captive to the Word of God.
“We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 CSB
This means that when a thought comes in, we must run it through the filter of God’s Word. And if it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, we have to tell it to leave.
Again, that’s why it is so important to know God’s Word to overcome and walk in freedom from shame.
So when the Devil tries to lie to you, telling you that you need to feel shame from your past, you can remind the Devil that you’ve already been forgiven, and that God doesn’t shame you.
Like it says in Philippians 3, you can forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead—your freedom in Jesus Christ.
“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” - Philippians 3:13-14 NLT
Prayers for shame and guilt when you start rehearsing past
God, I hold every thought captive to the Word of God, and I reject these thoughts that aren’t from you. I command the Devil to leave me alone. Resist the Devil and he must flee. I reject the lie that I’m not worthy to be forgiven in Jesus name, and I command shame to leave. I have been forgiven for my past, and I am free from shame. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We can feel shame or guilt for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to explicitly address how to let go of sexual shame.
Christians can carry a lot more shame when it comes to sexual sin and it is hard for women struggling with sexual sin to speak up and get help.
When I first surrendered my life (and my sex life) to God, I felt shame from my sexual past with men and was embarrassed to talk about how I was still struggling with porn and masturbation.
I felt so dirty talking about it, and I worried that other women at church would judge me for my sexual sin.
As more and more women at my church had the courage to be vulnerable and share what they needed prayer for, it allowed me to have the courage to speak up and admit I was struggling with sexual sin.
I was able to get the prayer and encouragement I needed to overcome sexual sin, and I was able to experience the freedom from shame and ungodly soul ties that were holding me back.
If you’re struggling with sexual sin, you aren’t alone my friend.
According to Covenant Eyes Porn Stats eBook, about 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to watching porn.
To let go of sexual shame, repeat the same steps discussed above.
It’s important to remember that just like any other sin, sexual sin is not too big for God to redeem.
And with sexual shame, it’s important to find a mentor or group of women that you can trust to talk about it with. Admit that you are struggling, and get the prayer and accountability you need to overcome sexual sin.
If you want to learn more about what the Bible says about sex, check out what the Bible says about sex before marriage.
And if you want to be inspired by other woman of faith who have overcome a sexual past, check out my favorite purity books for women.
Learning to overcome a sexual past and walking in purity is tough, which is why I want to give you a free, 7-day devotional to resist temptation.
It is possible to overcome sexual sin, but it isn’t easy which is why meditating and memorizing God’s Word is so important to overcome temptation.
Join the FREE Attracting Your Future Husband challenge, a 14-day prayer challenge that will help you pray over yourself & your future husband as you wait on God to bring you together