The Courage To Heal In Community: How To Help And Be Helped Through Shame and Isolation

As far back as the Garden of Eden, the Lord knew that it wasn’t healthy for mankind to be alone. Why choose an isolated path? Here are 4 tips to heal and overcome shame, negative thoughts, and isolation. Let’s be courageous together, shall we?

1. Overcoming Shame

Sitting in Bible study fifteen years ago, I remember thinking to myself I’m amazed this church hasn’t been struck by lightning the moment I walked in… if only these nice church women knew what I’d done in the past, they wouldn’t be so welcoming. They would toss me out the first chance they could.

So I hid, tried to blend in, and became what I saw around me. The longer I was in Scripture, the more shame I felt at being such an imposter. The enemy loved to remind me of what I used to be like. Often pulled in two directions–knowing Christ’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy yet listening to lies, condemnation, and accusation. Rarely did my peace last for long. I kept trying to cover my shame and hide my pre-Jesus deeds.

You know, we really are Adam and Eve’s progeny. They clothed themselves with fig leaves after their disobedience (Genesis 3), so, too, do we hide our sin and hurts. As in the Garden, the Lord longs to walk with us, already knows what we’ve done, and yet wants so much more for us! Eden had animal sacrifices to cover the original sin; Jesus is the lasting sacrifice for once and for all time. (Hebrews 10)

How did I overcome shame? I faced it head-on and confessed to God with Jesus as my shield and strength. I courageously marched into therapy. I began to share with those I trusted in the safe spaces I curated and didn’t shrink back.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
(Revelation 12: 10b-11)

When you bring the light into dark places, the enemy has to retreat. (John 1: 5)

A little cheeky, but you get the drift?

2. Unlearning Unhealthy Thought Cycles

Here’s something else: It’s hard to overcome grooming. For trauma and abuse survivors, the temptation to isolate and keep things in the dark is often instinctive. Programmed by abusers to keep secrets, to believe that seeking help won’t change anything, the darkness grows and the roaring lion continues to devour when we refuse to humble ourselves, trust God, and cast our anxiety on the One who cares for us. He will lift us up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6-9)

It’s prideful to think that the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God who created all things can’t save us.

That’s a weird thought, that those who are abused could be prideful… isn’t it? 

Even if abuse isn’t your background, you’ve probably kept secrets, too. Maybe you’ve compared yourself with others thinking your suffering wasn’t as bad as THEIRS. So you kept quiet and didn’t seek help. Maybe you just kept taking it, whatever “it” is, thinking that being longsuffering is godly.

At what point does absorbing pain in the form of words or deeds become abusive? Enabling? Are we fixing a loved one’s problems so they don’t have to suffer the natural consequences of their behavior?

Humble yourselves, therefore,
under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Be alert and of sober mind.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
because you know that the family of believers throughout the world
is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
(1 Peter 4:6-9)

3. The Tool Of The Enemy

Isolation was one of my favorite coping strategies. Any time people got too close to me, I shut down and shut everyone out completely. This is also part of being groomed as a child for abuse, though. When “No” is ignored, we use other ways to deal with pain. As children, we believe “I can’t go for help—no one is going to rescue me.” Learned powerlessness, along with the secrecy requirement common with abuse, kills any hope of changing your relationships and slowly kills your soul.

The enemy knows isolation is one of his most powerful arsenal tools. 

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless against the devil’s schemes. Without knowing our identity in Christ, God’s omnipotent power, and His infinite goodness, the enemy tricks us into isolation, takes us off to the corner to chew on, and slowly devours us. Our job as Christians is to resist him by standing firm in our faith and knowing others are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. (Pointing back to that 1 Peter passage again!)

4. Isolation to “I Solution”

woman smiling at camera while recording video on her cell phone with circle light
Need some courage? Borrow mine…

While I still isolate at times, these days, I’m a lot quicker at asking for help. How?

By finding better solutions, I

  • sought professional therapy
  • established a deep, relational spiritual mentorship
  • hired an inspiring coach
  • created a prayer warrior tribe
  • curated gratitude for my family, friends, community, and church

Therapy helped me know and understand my past; I’ve learned to love and be kind to myself.  My spiritual mentor kept pointing me back to God’s goodness and Truth and encouraged me to keep going even when it seemed too hard. Cheering me daily, my coach/accountability partner gave me so many tools I was missing from my “daily life skills” box.

My prayer tribe is vigilant; I do my best to keep them informed, giving permission for close friends, my battle buddies, to call me out if they see me in shame, unhealthy thought cycles, or isolation. It’s so easy to slip back into old habits without accountability.

Community is a godly provision we have the power to enact. My husband, kids, girlfriends, and the people in my neighborhoods of influence have been a source of enormous support as I’ve become bolder about sharing my journey. My church is a multitude of blessings from leadership to teaching and opportunities to serve.

We were never meant to do this walk alone, Friend! Right now, take back the blood-bought power of the Holy Spirit and stand on the battlefield with me as we fight for the Kingdom together.

How did I overcome shame (isolation and negative thought cycles)? I faced it head-on and confessed to God with Jesus as my shield and strength. I courageously marched into therapy. I began to share with those I trusted in the safe spaces I curated…

Leigh Mackenzie
The Church Girl Writes

For other stories like this one, check out How To Write Through Suicidal Hopelessness And Come Out The Other Side StrongerHow To Find The Blessings After The Battle: Lessons Learned From Being Deleted On Instagram (Part 2)What Am I Learning From Coronavirus and #TheWorldTurnedUpsideDown.