The Shame Blame Game

Shame…we all deal with it from time to time.

Shame is a mechanism inside everyone to make you feel bad after you have done something wrong. Its function is to prick your conscience into wanting to correct the wrong behavior. But it is easily manipulated and many people take on a lot of false shame. Shame you feel because you were involved, but not responsible. Shame you feel because people look at you like you are a failure and inadequate. Blame is putting responsibility of an action onto someone. It is also used as a defense mechanism to protect yourself from the shame of your actions – turning the responsibility onto someone else rather than yourself.

In a divorce, one person decides to leave and often without the knowledge of their spouse. The person left behind feels a tremendous amount of shame. They feel they should have been more aware of their former spouse’s unhappiness so they could have done something to save the marriage. Shame is further heaped on the shoulders of the divorced person because everyone around you also assumes you should have known about the trouble in your home and have done something about it. You feel shame because you must be unlovable or your spouse wouldn’t have left you. You are left feeling hopeless. Trust me, as much as you hear others voice these accusations, nothing prepares you for the shame you feel because you believe all the lies. Why didn’t you know your spouse was unhappy? Why did you do this or say that? Why didn’t you do the one thing that would have saved this heartache? These were all the questions that stuck in my head after my first husband walked out. Why did he go? What did I do that was so bad?

Shame flooded over me and stayed with me like a new skin. It was in every thought and action. I just knew there was a big “D” branded on my forehead for all the world to see. To make matters worse, friends suddenly looked at me different. They didn’t say anything but they also avoided me like the plague, which only made me feel more like a failure. The shame was like a neon light flickering on and off. It said that I was such an awful person that the one who had vowed to love me forever couldn’t even be in the same room with me. I could hardly look my children in the eye because I had caused their father to leave. Their home was torn apart and it was all my fault. That’s a lot of guilt and shame for one person to take on. I believed all of it. It tormented me day and night.

In the midst of all this emotion, it’s easy to blame the spouse who left because they aren’t there to defend themselves. It’s easy to blame them for being a bad parent, an absent parent, a poor provider, etc. etc. There are also an unlimited number of people who will either help you blame your offending spouse, or blame you. But, this approach isn’t any healthier than shame. It’s a lot harder to look at yourself and take some of that blame yourself. And I’ll admit I wasn’t always successful at not blaming.

But finally, slowly, through a lot of hard work, God was able to shine His light on me and I started to see that light and reach for it. I spent hours reading my Bible, on my knees in prayer, listening to Christian radio, going to counseling, and spending time with people who loved me and wanted to help me out of the darkness of shame and blame. I had to look at myself and the part I played in the demise of my marriage. I had to admit that it wasn’t just his fault but mine too.

The Bible is full of verses, chapters, and books that can take all your shattered dreams, guilt, shame, blame, and pain and turn them into hope, joy, peace, and forgiveness.

The words in Psalms 55 and 56 and Isaiah 54 were especially helpful to me in my recovery. I had to flood my soul with positive words all day long. I even started playing my radio during the night – turned down low so I couldn’t hear it but I knew positive words were being spoken over me. I’ve known people who have played the Bible throughout the night so those powerful words would be heard subconsciously – a great idea!

God is faithful to all who love and serve Him. He reminded me over and over how much He loved me and cherished me. He told me He would never leave me or abandon me. Oh how I needed to absorb those words and believe Him. I remembered how He had walked me through the death of our first baby. I remembered how He had walked me through the early years of raising children and how He had helped us through the many moves, and financial hardships. But most of all, I was reminded of all the love we had shared as a family. There were more good years than the few bad years.

God used His Word, family and friends, music, and counseling to renew my spirit. I was no longer the victim of divorce. I was a beloved daughter of the Lord of Lords. He promised to take care of me and my children and He did. We went on to have a good life, a life full of hope and trust. Our lives certainly haven’t been fairy-tales. We have still had our share of heartaches and troubles. Decisions made haven’t always been right and consequences followed. But the one thing that has never wavered is my trust and hope in Jesus. He has proven over and over that He will always save me when I cry out to Him. He has never let me down even when I constantly let Him down. He took all the shame, blame, and pain and replaced it with love, hope and forgiveness.

Life will never be easy for us this side of heaven. Have faith in a God who sent His Son, Jesus, to die a horrible death just for us. You are so loved that there is nothing you have done, or will ever do, that will separate you from Him, except reject Him. My Lord supplies all my needs and a lot of my wants. I believe He is who He says He is because I have experienced His love and restoration.

Maybe you’ve identified with this post and you’re wondering, “Okay Joette, now what?” Well, the Team at Big Blue Couch™ Coaching has a heart to help anyone who can’t figure out how to move forward after a life altering event, be it big or small. Life hurts and sometimes you just need someone to come along side you and say, “I’ve been through the same thing and survived.” That is why we do what we do. We take what we’ve learned and pass it on to others to help them heal. We’d like to invite you to join us for the UNASHAMED Mini-Retreat on September 17th. You can grab all the details here.

Much love and God bless,




Joette Knapp is a Professional Life Coach, Speaker, and part of the coaching team at Big Blue Couch™ Coaching. After surviving losing her first baby, and two devastating divorces, Joette turned to her faith and discovered that God can take the ashes of her shattered life and turn them into something new and beautiful. She is passionate about helping other women walk through life-changing  experiences and discover that there can be a great life on the other side.

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