For Anyone Living with Shame

Fr. Mark-Mary talks about living in the shame of past sins.

Guess what? We’re all sinners. All of us have a natural inclination toward sin through The Fall. And although we may fall, go to confession, and repent, it’s hard for us to forget the memory of those sins and forgive ourselves. 

When God sees us in confession, he instantly forgives us. He washes away all confessed sins and even forgets they ever happened because his mercy is that great. This is much harder for us to do ourselves, especially when it comes to mortal sins or sins that we see directly affecting others. It can lead to a lot of heaviness on our hearts and shameful thinking. So what can we do?

It’s important to recognize and understand how our minds and bodies work in times of temptation. Whenever we are tempted by a near occasion of sin, our passions kick into gear and are fueled to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Our intellect can become “dimmed”, and what would otherwise be unattractive can seem attractive. What we’d normally avoid, we might run toward. But when the sin has been committed and the passions are satisfied, they fade away and our intellect returns to normal. This is when we realize what we’ve done and shame sets in.

The reality of the situation is that for most of your life, you’re going to view sin as something undesirable. It’s only in those moments of temptation that the passions try and convince you otherwise. So one step to reducing this shame is to make a plan of action, especially for habitual sins. These are sins that you’ve been struggling with for a while and just seem to keep falling into. Go to the Lord and ask him to help you create a plan for when the near occasion of sin presents itself, and work to lessen the impact this sin has on your life.

Above all, what’s going to conquer both sin and the shame that results from it is an intense focus on the mercy of God. Shame comes from memories of sin and can cause us to focus heavily on our downfalls. But the next time you find yourself thinking about how you’ve fallen or disappointed God, think instead about how blessed we are to have a God that loves us without measure, who forgives us the moment we ask, and whose mercy is everlasting.

If we focus on the triumphs of God instead of our own downfalls, we can stop feeding the shame that surrounds our past sins.

Fr. Josh Johnson does a deep dive into our broken nature and the blessings God wants to give us in Broken and Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation.

Meet Fr. Mark-Mary

Father Mark-Mary was ordained as a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) in 2018 and lives at a friary in the Bronx.

The mission of the CFRs is to wholeheartedly embrace Jesus through fidelity to the Church and her Sacraments. Paired with their commitment to prayer, contemplation, and study of Sacred Scripture, the CFRs serve those around them, especially the poor, in the footsteps of Christ.

Discover beautiful music from the CFRs and Fr. Mark-Mary’s book Habits for Holiness: Small Steps for Spiritual Progressboth available from Ascension.