He was only 5 years old when he began to fully embrace the effects of shame and guilt. He grew up in a typical Christian home with two parents and two siblings. He explained that going to school was one of the most painful times in his life. You see, he had a very evident problem, he wet his pants from an early age until he reached the age of six or seven. Oh, I forgot to mention that his name was Tito.
It was years later when Tito found that his parents had deep, secretive problems. Affairs, deceit and chaos were what actually ruled this seemingly Christ-centered home. Most of the turmoil was hidden from Tito as his parents would never talk about their problems in front of the kids. They often spoke in Spanish, a language he never learned growing up, which later led to Tito’s belief that foreign words were the best hiding place for his mom and dad. Church attendance was a semi-priority in their lives and although he recalls feeling loved, there was rarely a true Godly connection between the family and their faith.
“I remember one time sitting in my first grade class and it was time for recess. I always waited for the other kids to get up and go play before I dared stand up and walk out. It was humiliating having a big wet spot on my pants, and it made me feel so stupid. I hated that I wet my pants, but I couldn’t help it,” relayed Tito. His sorrowful problem would leave him feeling isolated and afraid; afraid to play with the other kids, afraid to be part of the fun. It was one of the most debilitating times he can recall growing up. Every single day over those few formative years, he wet his pants and felt desperately abandoned.
The kids were no picnic either. Tito recalls being ridiculed on the playground over and over. They said things like, “you stink like pee,” or, “you’re gross, let’s get away from him,” which also led to them making fun of every other aspect of his life. He felt like an inferior alien and he slowly began to believe what they said about him.
“There’s something really wrong with me and nobody will ever like me,” he muttered as tears filled his eyes. This mentality, this shame, filled his future for years to come.
Secrets to Acceptance
Tito can recall many years after the wetting had stopped coming home from school as a sixth grader and telling his mom, “I just hit a homerun in softball. Can you believe it!” He beamed with great esteem as he stood before his mama while she wrapped her arms around him with motherly pride. The only problem is that he never hit that home run. He never even played softball that day. But his goal was acceptance, his prize was that his mom was proud of him. This pattern of self-preservation fueled by shame carried on for years into his adulthood.
Truth be told, Tito grew up with an experience much like many of us reading this story. Things can look great on the outside, but deep down inside, the pain we carry can cause us to put on colorful masks and align ourselves with glorious fabrications. At least for Tito, that was the case.
As Tito began his own relationship with God, his life began to radically change. God guided him into many loving relationships that turned his shame upside down. He began to find real rest in people that allowed him to be real with who he was. They loved him whether he hit a homerun or not. He still had battle scars which at times would pull him into his old way of living, but he was determined to work through his shame and guilt.
Tito is slowly learning to let go of his masks and find comfort in people that love him for who he is today. His life is now marked with deeply intentional relationships where he can share his deepest fears and his deceitful ways. Tito reached a very interesting point in his life where he saw that the shame he experienced as a child was driving sin in the present. The very shame he wanted to rid himself of was trapped beneath the sins that lead him directly into the need to be accepted and valued. This, of course, caused even deeper shame. Tito recalls an incredible moment where God spoke so clearly to him in the Scriptures.
“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:24-25)
As Tito realized he was enslaved to a sin that had completely captivated his being, he found that Jesus was his answer. And, as Jesus spoke clearly to Tito’s heart about grace and forgiveness, the Spirit led Tito to other people that came alongside him through his pain and grief. It was clearly others coming beside him that was the game changer in Tito’s life.
A New Strategy
Self-deception has not left Tito completely. He is still in a fierce spiritual battle. “Am I good enough or do I need to make something up in order to look good?” This is a question he wrestles with daily. But, it is more than a question, it is a flawed character trait. When he finds himself living in shame and deception, he runs to his friends and confesses his struggle. They love him with grace and afford him the room to grow. Tito would tell you today that his struggles are slowly becoming part of his ever-present past. He is forging ahead into a new future infused with Jesus’ grace and honest living.
Can you relate to Tito? Does the shame of your past create heartbreaking paths in your present? Fear not friends. Jesus is your remedy.
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2)
RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT, Jesus is seated at the right hand of our heavenly dad pleading on our behalf, rendering our shame powerless. Jesus is our answer, he does not merely have our answer.
Oh, I forgot to mention one last thing. My parents gave me a nickname when I was a little boy. You guessed it, Tito…
Reflect On This…
- What areas of your past cause you to feel shame or guilt, and keep you from having authentic, loving relationships now?
- Who are some relationships in your life now that you would be willing to open up to about these areas of shame and guilt? What would it look like for you to trust them?
- Take some time to read and reflect on Romans 7:24-25. What does it look like for you to allow Jesus to befriend you in your shame? How does he want to remove that burden from you?