By Diane Hwang
I remember the morning well. I was enjoying the warm summer day with some other moms as we celebrated the announcement of my second pregnancy. My son was only nine months old at the time and I had just made the decision to stop breastfeeding him because the only relief I found for my severe morning sickness was a medication that could not be taken while breastfeeding. As this came up in our conversation, I clearly remember the moment when one of the moms asked why I couldn’t just push through the nausea and skip the medication so that I wouldn’t have to stop breastfeeding my son.
While it wasn’t her intention, only about 30 seconds passed before a flood of shame washed over me. She was right – if I was a good mom, I wouldn’t have given up on breastfeeding just because I was sick. It hadn’t even crossed my mind before, but after she said it I couldn’t help but feel so selfish for not doing everything possible to continue breastfeeding my son. What began as a celebratory conversation ended with me leaving the playdate feeling defeated and convinced that I was a complete failure of a mom.
As a new mom, I never anticipated how often shame would affect me. I’ve experienced its heavy weight after losing patience with my toddler, who seems to test me more with each day that passes, and I’ve experienced it from the hurtful comments of well-meaning people who don’t agree with choices I’ve made as a mom. No matter what triggers it, it almost always causes me to shrink back and hide from who God created me to be, as a wife and as a mother.
Raising children is a fulfilling but difficult job and with it comes many occasions for shame to grip us tight. It can often creep in slowly and accumulate over time or it can hit us suddenly like an unexpected tidal wave, leaving us feeling isolated and defeated. Whether the shame we experience comes from our own sin or from the hurtful words or actions of another person, I’ve learned that we have the choice to let it push us into hiding or we can use it to draw near to God to discover who He says we are.
From my own experience, the following two things have helped me to conquer shame:
1. Turning to God
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16)
“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (Psalm 34:5)
When the wave of shame hits, often my first instinct is to turn away from God, but it’s actually the very act of turning towards Him that rids shame of its power. Not only that, but for every moment that I hear the enemy’s shaming accusations, I have the opportunity to pause and hear from God.It’s in those brief moments, as we come boldly to our gracious God in the midst of our shame, that He is sure to respond with words of truth that bring healing and freedom. While the enemy attempts to feed us lies about who we are, let’s remember that God has the final say and when we pause long enough to listen, He is sure to speak.
2. Turning to Community
“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).
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25)
Shame often isolates us by making us feel that we are the only ones struggling and when we believe this lie, we tend to hide our shame from the people God has surrounded us with. As difficult as it feels, something so profound happens when we turn towards community when all we want to do is run away from it - we discover the truth that we aren’t in this journey of motherhood alone. As we bring our shame to the light, we find that we aren’t the only moms who lose our patience, doubt our ability to raise godly children, or feel altogether defeated in motherhood. And it’s there that we find the healing, comfort and encouragement we need to thrive.
Turning to God and community to overcome shame is so important because if left unattended, it is sure to grow rapidly and hold us back from being all that God created us to be. And as moms, we hold the great responsibility of being a reflection of Jesus to our children; but how can we reflect Him well if we are continually being weighed down by the lies of shame? I’ve come to realize that our children don’t need us to be perfect moms, but they do need us to flourish as image-bearers and reflect our perfect Savior. We must not only remind our children that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we must believe it for ourselves as well. While shame is a powerful tool of the enemy, we serve a God who is greater and sets us free from the lies of shame so that we can flourish as we raise our children.
Diane and her husband have been married for three years and are raising their two small children in the rainy, but beautiful city of Seattle. After years in sales, Diane is enjoying her life as a stay-at-home mom and volunteers at her local church while her husband begins his new career as a police officer. She’s a lover of coffee, fresh mountain air, quality time with family and friends, and the Pacific Northwest. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!