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It is a topic we don’t often talk about. It’s an elusive and mysterious monster that undermines our financial freedom and our ultimate happiness. What is it? One word: shame.

When it comes to money and debt, we often feel shame under the surface. It can be as simple as shame for an online purchase when bills are stacked on the counter. Or the shame you feel over a poor business decision that’s left you in debt and feels like it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life. The good news today is if we can identify these feelings or beliefs, we can break free from them and develop a new relationship with our money and ourselves.

Let’s face it. Just saying the word shame feels so ominous and heavy. It feels so secretive and dark doesn’t it? Before we can find freedom from it and begin to have a conversation about this topic, we need to define what it is and whether it is impacting your life.

Let’s start by ripping off shame’s mask. Let’s point a finger at shame and describe it in detail. I love how author Lewis Smedes defines it in Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don’t Deserve. Here’s his description. See if you can relate to any of these statements:

  1. Shame is the persistent feeling that you are not acceptable.
  2. Shame is the belief that you are less than a good person.
  3. Shame is a vague, undefined heaviness that presses on your spirit.
  4. Shame is a primal feeling that discolors all other feelings.
  5. Shame is the repeating voice telling you that you don’t measure up, so do more.

In others words, shame is what makes us want to hide. To hide from God. To hide from strangers. Even to hide from loved ones. It touches every human life, including yours. I believe we are strong enough to deal with and overcome every shame-filled thought that undermines our life.

So where do we start? How do we address this hidden, secretive force that many of us struggle with? Let me give you three strategies that might help.

Forgive Yourself

I’ve never watched someone experience freedom without forgiveness. They’re like the peanut butter and jelly of life. They always go together. Forgive yourself of whatever burden, lie and brokenness you’re tying to your identity and your debt.

Silence the voices of inner shame and judgment. Start using self-talk to your own advantage and remind yourself that just because you made a mistake, doesn’t mean you are a mistake. Feed your ego on the unending love of God, rather than the fickle opinions of others or the destructive beliefs you have about yourself.

Hold on to Hope

The feeder of shame is hopelessness. We think, “My debt is just so big, I’ll never pay it off” or “I’ll never overcome this addiction to spending money” etc. But the struggle will lead us to our strength. If you’ve faced financial challenges in the past, they are an opportunity to give you wisdom, insight and learnings for the future. Instead of asking ourselves, “Why me?” Let’s instead ask, “What am I supposed to learn and how can I grow from this?”

Shame wants you to focus on the problem instead of what you learned. It wants to trap you in the past instead of living in the hope of the future. This one simple shift in how you see your financial mistakes can really bring a new health to your relationship with money.

Talk About It

Shame thrives in secrecy. It wants you to try to figure it out in your own head. It whispers to you that if you reach out for help that people will judge you and reject you. One of the most destructive things we believe about our financial challenges is that we are the only ones who are dealing with them. But when we share and talk about these struggles with others, we discover that we’re not alone.

We don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed because what we’ll learn is that our issues are pretty common, and most people are facing these types of challenges. When you open up and share, you not only break the power of shame in your life, you open yourself up to the opportunity to allow others to help and guide you. Shame loves secrets, but freedom loves conversations.

Helpful Resources

• How are you really doing financially? Take the Financial Wellness Assessment and find out

• Debt: what everyone should know about it and how to get out of it

• Manage your money better, together with Men, Women and Money

Love & Money content is created in partnership with brightpeak Financial