Wearing a Badge of Shame
Joy. More than anything in the whole world, I wanted joy.
From the outside, I’m sure many people believed that I was genuinely happy. But internally, I sensed my thoughts darkening and my heart burdened by a heaviness I couldn’t explain. I walked through the halls of my high school with fake smiles, but inside, I felt tired and uncertain.
I wanted joy but I mostly experienced the emptiness of doubt and insecurity.
When I made a mistake, my heart cringed as I began to believe: you are a failure. I compared myself to others, and I thought: you don’t work hard enough. You aren’t smart enough or attractive enough. When I felt left-out and lonely, my heart cried: No one knows you. No one loves you.
The lies I believed about myself became my identity. I wore them every day, like an invisible badge of shame. On the days I managed to achieve anything noteworthy, my self-esteem would rise, only to fall again with the next upset.
And for years of my life, I thought this was normal, that joy was an illusion that I would never attain.
There are lies we believe about ourselves. They are so deeply woven into our lives that sometimes we can’t even recognize that they are present in the corners of our minds. These lies burden us with shame and guilt; they cause insecurity and self-doubt; and they damage us, replacing our true identity with a broken one.
So how do we fight to find happiness and peace when depression and sadness feel so heavy in our hearts?
I am not an expert. I can only tell you, from my personal experience, the things that helped me find joy in my life. I pray that these would help you too in the midst of whatever lies are haunting you.
- Find Truth.
My journey to joy began my freshman year in college. A friend invited me to join her in a group that studied the Bible together and I agreed to go, only because I was hungry for approval. I believed in God and probably would have told you that I was a Christian. But I didn’t know much about God. And what I found when I began searching was something I didn’t know I needed.
I found truth. Truth about the world, about God, and about myself.
See, if God really exists, and God really created me, then my identity is not based on what I have done, my failures or successes. My identity is rooted in the truth that I am created by God, and even loved by Him! I am not a failure. I am a person created and loved by God! I am not unloved or unknown. I am deeply known by God who knows everything–including the darkest parts of my heart!
And when I began to truly embrace this truth, joy began to grow. It was like the beginning of Spring. Slowly my thoughts turned from shades of grey to hues of green. Laughter came like blossoms. And the cold doubt turned to warmth – love that I could give to others.
There is a common expression that says: “The truth will set you free.” I pray that as you seek the truth, you would find freedom from the lies about yourself that burden you.
2. Talk to someone.
If you are struggling with depression or sadness, you don’t have to struggle alone. That group of women who read the Bible with me were a lifeline to me when I needed a place to be heard. Here are some places you can find encouragement:
- Talk to Bridges Staff or Student Leaders at your campus. They are happy to listen to you and to pray for you.
- Visit a “Peer Counselor” on your campus. These students are trained to listen to your problems and encourage you when you need help. Or visit a professional counselor. Most campuses have a health center on campus that offer affordable or free services to students.
May the truth set you free as you fight against the shame in your life and hope heal the darkest places of your heart.