Stopping the Shame Cycle


Shame is a powerful influencer. And if we let it get loud enough, it convinces us that we are walking report cards. Shame gives us a capital F saying our behavior is who we are.

Let’s turn down the volume on shame.

You may be struggling with your behavior but you are not your sin. Your identity is not wrapped in your performance alone.

If that statement can’t find it’s way into your heart; listen in on this conversation.

Josh invites Regeneration Ministries, Dan Keeffer, to dig deeper into the shame cycle and how to stop it. Because destructive behavior, greased with shame, can move quickly into more destructive behavior.

You are meant for more. Stop wrecking yourself with shame and start reconciling yourself to the truth of God your Father.

You are loved and welcomed and invited to “Becoming Whole.”

Listen in.


need to be careful about determining who I am or how I’m doing based on any given moment and the behavior at any given moment.

Shame piled on top of shame has a way of exacerbating our own self loathing and how we see ourselves before God and our relationships with others.

God sees me, not as my sin but as His son.


Mentally Cluttered: Do you find yourself unable to be attentive to your yourself, to God? Your family friend or coworkers? Sin creates clutter in how we interact with others. Ask God to reveal your sin, reveal your shame and then ask Him to reveal His love.

Does this sound familiar to you? The Shame Cycle: I feel shame so I act out sexually and feel even more shame. Listen back to the episode. How can you stop the cycle?

The distinction between these two statements so you can identify shame, name it and stop the cycle. 1. Guilt is I did something wrong. 2. Shame is there’s something about me that is wrong.

Remember: YOU ARE NOT YOUR BEHAVIOR. Behavior is not a measure of who you are as a person and it is not all of you.


Jay Stringer

But even there we have to remember that the devil doesn’t have his own clay. All he can do is take God’s clay (which is always “very good”) and twist it up. … Purity of heart enables us to see the good that got twisted up. – Christopher West “Art and the New Evangelization: How Beauty Will Save the World”

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:02
I was having conversation with a friend recently, and just kind of checking in about his life. And when I asked him how he was, his response was I’m not doing well, like I don’t know what’s going on. Then he proceeded to tell me about how in this most recent season of his life he’d been acting out sexually. And as I listened to him, I was kind of struck with this reality that he was making connection between how he was, and his recent sexual sin. And how he was was, seemed to be all wrapped up in how well he was doing in regards to sexual integrity. So in other words, if he had been doing well, he was doing well, if he’d been doing poorly in the realm of sexual integrity, then he was doing poorly. And we want to talk about that. So I’m joined today by Dan keefer. Dan does coaching with our men here, region. Dan, what do you hear when I when I introduce it that way? What What comes to your mind? What’s the problem with, with what, what I was hearing in this this friend?

Dan Keefer 1:23
Yeah, so what, even before paying attention to what I’m hearing, there’s something I’m feeling, because when I hear an individual lead off that way, there’s something in my heart that becomes heavy for the individual. And because what I’m hearing is that the individual is measuring where he is in life in that moment, based on behavior. And, and I, one of the one of the thoughts that I’ve had for myself, and I’ve shared this with others in coaching work is, if I define myself, at any given moment, I could either be doing the most living the most amazing, incredible life for God. Or I could be, as Paul says that Chico ball centers. So I really need to be careful to about, about determining who I am, or how I’m doing based on any given moment, and the behavior in any given moment.

Josh 2:19
So you’re I mean, you’re cut right into how, like that reality that that if we equate ourselves with our behavior, then we’re already off whether we’re doing well, we feel good about ourselves, or we’re doing poorly and feel badly about ourselves, which is really hard to do. I mean, honestly, like, and I know, it’s not just during the sexual arena, can be true in a lot of areas of life, you know, I friend who lost his job not long ago, somebody else whose kids aren’t doing well, it can be really hard to not kind of equate that this means something about me as a person. And but in the in the sexual realm, I think even more so there’s something intrinsic about sexuality that are mean, it’s almost like there’s something in us in our psyche that kind of knows, there’s a there’s a deeper connection, a deeper root in the realm of sexuality. So it can, it can be tricky there when we’re when we’re not doing well, or when we are doing well to kind of not rope that into your identity. So yeah, so going, you said you started there, but talk a little bit more about what you hear. What else is going on there for this guy? Why is this? Why is this a negative? For a guy who wants to walk in sexual integrity or man or woman who wants to walk in sexual integrity,

Dan Keefer 3:39
right? So it can be the kind of thing that reinforces the shame that was already being felt. And so, shame piled on top of shame, has a way of just exacerbating our own self loathing and how we may see ourselves before God and then also impacts our relationships with others. It’s interesting in some conversations, and I’ve had this awareness in my own life with sin, is that when sin is present, or even when it’s being confessed, there can still be this time of feeling this cluttered mess and, and I talked about being a mental clutter Enos like an inability to be attentive to oneself, to be attentive to God and to be attentive to family, if a person is married as a spouse, children, possibly engaged with work. There’s just this overall cluttered ness. So it’s not just a sense of I, I feel worthless before God or have these very dark feelings in terms of how I’m identified, identifying myself or what I’m believing, but it actually creates this clutter in relationship with others.

Josh 4:47
The sexual sin does

Dan Keefer 4:49
sexual Sanderson as a whole as well. So yeah, putting in the beer category that way. It has it just clutter or the other the other way that I think about it is Like in peanuts cartoon, there’s one character named pig pan who when he walks around, there’s always this dirt following and wherever he goes. Now that kind of the way that I can conceive of that is it’s not dirt falling a person around, but it’s like this fog, this fog that hangs over a person. So it makes it so difficult to see with clarity and to see color.

Josh 5:24
And is that, this that shame you’re talking about?

Unknown Speaker 5:27
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Josh 5:29
So I want to go back to that, because you you start off by saying, you know, kind of this, it’s the shame cycle, you didn’t use that word, but, you know, I feel shame. And so I act out sexually, and that makes me feel ashamed. So a couple things about that. One is just to clarify for people listening, shame is different than guilt. So you can do something, you can be absolutely guilty. But that is not equal the same as shame. Guilt is I did something wrong. Shame. Is there something about me that is wrong? sin, sin is or guilt is I sinned? Shame is, I am evil. And those are there’s a big difference between those two, in how it impacts us psychologically, how it impacts us relationally how it impacts our own sense of ourselves, and a sense of what we’re made for. I believe that I am a perverse person, then what is natural to me? What is the what is the normal flow of my life? What’s the, what’s the grain on the wood of who I am? Well, it’s, it’s to act, perversely, it’s engage in sexual, illicit behavior, if I believe on the other hand that I made for sexual integrity, and that’s at the core of who I am, and I made for love. And I made for honor and I made to see other people as people treat them with dignity and honor and love. I believe that’s the natural grain in my life, that I’m more likely than to act that way. And that’s, that’s, that, to me is a big reason why the whole shame thing is so so destructive for us as we’re trying to walk and freedom from from sin and from from sexual sin especially.

Dan Keefer 7:14
Yeah, I recently heard, someone had shared a YouTube video with me and there was a Christian therapist was interviewed was a part of the YouTube production. And he talked about shame as an acronym. And it was self hatred at my expense, self hatred at my expense, and that, and so if there’s self hatred present, if an individual is living in a posture of self hatred, that individual is not going to be able to receive love from God, receive love from family or friends, and definitely not have any sense of love for themselves. Right? So it’s that that piece of being able to shift it around from this posture of self hatred, to being able to say, okay, yes, I struggle with this behavior, or I’ve sinned. But what’s God’s posture towards me? Is his posture, one of hatred, disgust contempt, or is he the Is he the father who pursues and runs towards the the son, the prodigal son who’s returning home?

Josh 8:24
I think I think this piece is one that in my own journey away from compulsive sexual sin behaviors, was a game changer. For me, it was really hard to because like, it felt when I was in a pattern and had and had fallen for the millionth time, even though I promised, you know, a million times that I wouldn’t do this anymore. And here I am doing it again. It felt like the response I should give myself is, beat myself up, treat myself badly, talk about myself badly, pray about myself badly. Expect a backhand from God, expect his condemnation expect him to pull away from me. That’s what I felt like I deserved. It’s like what I felt like I was. And in a legal sense, it may have been what I deserved, but on a relational sense, in, in kind of my own self identity and my own sense, and in the reality of who God has made me to be as his son, and as somebody who is redeemed by the gospel of Christ. That’s all changed now. And that, and that was a, that was probably the hardest step of faith for me was to actually, when I least felt like it, to stand up into God’s grace to stand up into that, that place have a son who is Dearly beloved by a God who sees me not as not as my sin, but as his son as someone who is honorable and loving. That was a huge, huge, maybe I should say, this way, really difficult terrain, to walk across in those moments, and I felt so different from from what I was being asked to believe about who God made me to

Dan Keefer 10:04
be. So Josh, if I was if you and I were working together, and we’re, we work together, so I’m not encouraging you. But it’s if you were to have been saying those kinds of things to me about how you’re perceiving yourself, and this idea that I need to pay for what I did, I would have done this with others, in a gentle way, say, so. Are you telling me that Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t sufficient for what you’ve done? Right? Or do you feel like you have a need to crawl up on the cross for some reason, and not trying to be sarcastic or unkind, but just, it’s a way of reframing it bringing us back to the reality that, wait a minute, when Jesus died on the cross, He died for this sin as well. So for me to carry it for me to think that I need to pay in some way. It’s just not, it’s not accurate. And I, I kind of wonder if that doesn’t break the heart of our father, when he sees us in that moment, refusing in a way, refusing the gift of forgiveness that’s already been given. And it’s a sense, in that moment, we’re choosing and saying, the choice around will to lay down that gift and say, okay, but that gift isn’t sufficient for this moment.

Josh 11:16
You know, that that love that, Dan? Whatever makes me remember, I remember times with my having conversations, even with my earthly dad, who, before he knew anything about sexual sin in my life would say things like, you know, you’re so hard on yourself. And remember, at one point saying to him, Well, I would rather be hard on myself now, and find that God is more patient, or gracious in the later than to be soft and grace myself now and find that God’s gonna be hard on me later. What I didn’t realize, as I held that view, was I kind of walked with that posture. That felt like a humble way to walk. But what I didn’t realize was, in essence, what I was doing was exactly what you just said, I was saying to God, I’m not going to receive the gift that you’re giving. And, and I think what I didn’t understand about God at that point, not that he wasn’t gracious and understand even with my, my ignorance, my, what I was trying to do, he was he was very gracious. But I think what I didn’t realize about God was that our God doesn’t force His mercy upon us. He doesn’t force His grace upon us. He doesn’t force adoption on us, he doesn’t force a new identity upon us. He gives His he is gracious to give. He doesn’t even force is the truth of himself upon us. I mean, we do have a choice to believe the good news, or to say no to it, we have the choice to believe we are forgiven and to receive and what I mean by believe in that sentence is to receive it to open up and say, God, no, I don’t deserve it. But I, I want it. And so I say yes to your gift. We also have the option through our our attitudes, our beliefs, our fear, to say I don’t I don’t want it. I don’t want it, I’d rather beat myself up. I think this is a better path. I think, I think me climbing from the cross. It’s a more hopeful path than receiving Christ on the cross for me. We may not think that’s what we’re saying. But I think we can I think that’s what I said for years. I think it’s what other people can end up saying, and I think it’s even when I was referring back to this friend, beginning. I think there are ways that’s that’s what he’s, he may be doing. I’m not hundred percent sure. But he may be doing some of that, in his own kind of, you know, equating I had a bad week, because I since Actually, that’s the only thing you know, that’s the one factor that that defines this for me. Does that make sense?

Dan Keefer 13:39
Yes, it does. It does. And so one of the things I longed for an individual such as the one you’re referring to, is the individual to say, Yes, I behaved in this way. Yes, I send. And here’s what I realized was actually going on. The behavior was the tip of the iceberg. But when I look below that, I see that I felt there were times I felt insignificant. I didn’t feel seen, I didn’t feel heard. I reached out to someone, and they never reached back. I experienced fear, or even I had this amazing, amazing worship experience. And I’ve come to learn that in an amazing time of worship. There’s a vulnerability that comes with that. And with that vulnerability, also comes the susceptibility to send, and it would almost seem like so almost seemed crazy that the two could go together. And yet I’ve seen that time and time again, in people I work with. I’ve seen it in some struggles in my own life where it’s this worship encounter that is like, wow, God, I couldn’t feel any closer to you. And then why am I then struggling with significant anger or some other manifestation of sin shortly after that, or even the next day So being able to see something bigger than just the behavior, because I think actually, I think actually, that’s what the evil one would like us to focus on. Because he gets us focused on the behavior and the self loathing that can come with that. He’s got us in the crosshairs. And we’re not living and walking and the love and the freedom that comes in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Josh 15:21
And I think what I The other thing I hear you saying in that, Dan, is that the behavior that were the parts of the behavior we’re focusing on aren’t the full story, either. Correct. I think as Jay stringer points out in his book on wanted, that there is there is an honesty, to some of our behavior that we actually need, because it’s, it’s one place where we’re letting out some of the truth. And so the example you just gave of, you know, I think is a great example, you know, I was I had this beautiful, worst experience, this mountaintop experience of this retreat I was on and within the next couple of days, I’ve acted out sexually. And we take that to a place of the enemy takes that to place it like, what must that mean about who I am, I am so wretched God gave me such a great experience. And this is where I ended up. And what you just did with that was to say, you had a vulnerable, a beautifully vulnerable and wonderful experience on the mountaintop in worship. And, and your your acting out, although certainly not a right or good thing to do, reveals that you are vulnerable, that you are open, you opened your heart in a way that was unusual. And that was maybe even uncomfortable for you there. And so the enemy wants to kind of focus in on the one bad thing to equate it to, you know, the wretch that you are, as opposed to focusing on that on the the honesty that can be in some of our acting out behavior that reveals something really good and desirous in there something something true and beautiful, even in the midst of that.

Dan Keefer 16:54
Am I right? Absolutely. Yeah. And I knew you were getting into it as well talking about, you know, what’s going on behind it. And, and I love that posture of curiosity. And that’s really something that again, coming out of j stringers work that I have introduced in my work with man is, is having them say, you know, let’s get curious about why it happened. Instead of the self accusation that self contempt and self loathing and shame, let’s say, all right, God, what what is it? You want to show me? You know, what, what more is this about? And, and this may seem like a pretty radical statement here. But guys that seem to continue to struggle that want to be in this posture of surrender. So even in the midst of temptation, you’re saying, God, I want to surrender this to you all, and I surrender this to you. And, and then they, they follow through with the behavior? And I’ve said to them, what if? What if God, at this moment is not as concerned about your behavior, as he is what’s lying behind that? And is it possible and this totally radical? This thought, I think, but is God? Is this behavior? Nonsense, not not that God is permitting it or blessing it, but allowing it to be there for the purpose of excavating something deeper in your life? Because when you get to that something deeper, the behavior is going to be long gone?

Josh 18:29
Yeah. So for Christopher West, I don’t know if this came from him or not, but he’s his expression, the devil doesn’t have his own clay. Yeah. And part of what we’re getting after here is is this that when we’ve sinned sexually, what’s the clay that the enemy has twisted? What’s the clay that the enemy has distorted into something else? And you could say in a very generic kind of, you know, broad view sense Well, the clay is sexuality, or the clay is his desire, but part of what we’re getting after here is it are there places in our lives, that the Lord loves and blesses. So example that we gave a minute ago, the vulnerability in worship, and your heart and desire to be vulnerable, and to be safe, to be vulnerable, and to be loved, to have your heart opened, and to be in a place that is that is loved, and you are transparent. That that’s the clay and, and the enemy, sin. Temptation wants to take that and twist it and turn that vulnerability into something well, the only place I can be vulnerable, the only place I can be open the only place I can let myself go. The only place I can be myself is in sexual sin. That’s my, in that secret place. I can’t really do that with real people, and I can’t do it long time with God or long term of God. And might it be that the Lord lets that sin persist and this is the scandalous saw, I thought you were just saying, Let that sin persist because his desire to for that vulnerable heart to be opened up and to redeem that vulnerable heart. is greater than less than his desire just to see you not sent like, if the if the choices, the father cuts off the vulnerable heart, you know, caps it stuffs it buries it so that you never send any more as opposed to, you know, I’m gonna give you the freedom to choose how you deal with this vulnerable heart. And it may lead you to sin because I love the vulnerable heart I want to redeem it, I want to call it out on its strong or not, and not crush it. So maybe an application point even there for our listeners is if you find yourself wrestling with ongoing sexual sin, if you find yourself wrestling with ongoing self reproach, self hatred, shame around behavior in your life. What’s the clay? What’s the gold, what is what’s in there that the Father loves so much that he doesn’t just, you know, chop that branch off? Jesus was clear and john like any any branch that doesn’t bear fruit, and he was going to hurt me not the enemy. Any branch doesn’t bear fruit. The father is going to come and burn it, he’s gonna he’s gonna cut that branch off. And so if there’s a branch that’s that you see is not bearing good fruit in your life that’s still there. What’s the good fruit? what’s what’s there that the Lord is preserving and waiting and being patient around because he wants it to bear more good fruit? It is scandalous. I mean, there’s even as I said, I’m like, Oh, that’s risky. Yeah. But I think I think part of what we’re getting after here is that the identity that God has given us is so thorough, is so deep is so real. That it is it is worth an immense amount to him. And I don’t think we need to know, go any further than the cross of Jesus to see just how worthwhile we are in our fullness, our dam

Dan Keefer 21:47
in that crosses, that picture of God is through Jesus on the cross, reconciling the world to Himself. And to make it even more personal, Heavenly Father God, through the death of Jesus on the cross, you were reconciling me to you. You were restoring a relationship that have been broken.

Josh 22:09
And where I feel the invitation there is in that place, that I can only right now feel so much self hatred, about, there’s something in there that you have, that you are reconciling to yourself, that you’re inviting reconciliation with yourself around. And I mean, I can think about areas of my life today where I wrestle with temper, or workaholism, or buisiness. Or driven this, and I just hate what those places do to me. But I can hear that invitation, what you’re saying, then father, like, those are parts of me that you’ve reconciled to yourself, like, let those parts come to me. And for those listening, who wrestled with sexual sin, instead of turning hatred inward at yourself? Can you be curious and bring those parts of you back to the loving arms of the Father and say, or reconcile these parts to yourself? What’s what have you reconciled to yourself here? What what are you reconciling what is here? I may only be able to see negative stuff, but I want to see the good. It’s here. So what do we do with that? How do we how do we wrap this up? what’s the what’s what’s the true truth that we that we want to kind of end with? Or maybe maybe an easier way to say it, Dan, is, as we wrap this podcast up, what’s one thing that stands out to you, as you know, people are listening today? One thing I hope they get before we wrap up is? Maybe I’ll share a thought as well.

Dan Keefer 23:42
I think I think the big thing is you are not your behavior. You’re not your behavior even on your on your worst day and on your best day. And your worst day and your best day your love and behavior is not the measure of who you are as an individual.

Unknown Speaker 24:03
Yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Josh 24:06
I’d echo that. Your Of course our behavior good or bad has consequences. Yes, yeah. You know, it impacts our life and impacts other people’s lives. And I’d say that you know, the route away from destructive behavior is not to be destructive towards yourself, because we rather than being destructive, living the destructive behavior, destroy who you are. Let Christ redeem who you are, and love who you are. The destructive behavior would diminish. Yeah, yeah, good stuff, Dan. Really appreciate it. There’s so much more that we, that it’s worth saying about who Jesus is in this and, and, and, and how he interacts with those who are in this place of struggle. And maybe we’ll have to leave that for another time. But bless your brother. Really? appreciate this parliament, Libya, let me close, close us in order to prepare, alert for all those listening. And for Dan and for me, Lord, you know the places in our lives that that we struggle and learn. we’ve struggled along with these places. It’s hard not to, not to feel shame about it. It’s hard, especially when you’ve heard other people or not to feel ashamed not to feel like we want to just kind of turn that shame and anger in Word. We pray that you would we bring instead today or we bring those places to you. We bring those places to you. And we asked Lord, reconcile us to you the fullness of who we are to you, or in any place that we have tried to bury because we thought it was all bad. Any clay that the enemy is twisted. We pray that rather that you would untwist and raise it up to new life and make it better and stronger, that we might live fully and wholly as yours. People of honor people of love, people of goodwill are we ask this for our sake for the sake of our loved ones sake of the world? We ask it for Your glory Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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