Belonging Day 6: Overcomer

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Today is Day #6  for the #write31days challenge on belonging. One of the main problems affecting our ability to experience belonging is shame. So today I want to introduce you to a book being released today, written by one of my fellow Redbud authors, called Overcomer. 

Too many women have allowed shame to condemn and confine them for far too long. If you’re ready to break free, regardless of the shame experience that is holding you back, Aubrey Sampson–a pastor’s wife and an advocate for at risk women—invites you, like her, to be an overcomer. Sampson courageously shares her own history with shame, ranging from sexual assault to everyday imperfections and laughable mistakes. But it doesn’t end there.

Sampson identifies seven major lies of shame, such as, “I cannot experience freedom from shame,” “My past is unsalvageable,” and “Shame is experienced only in traumatic situations.”

Written with a strong biblical theology and a humorous authenticity, Overcomer equips readers with the spiritual understanding to overcome shame.

Through her personal experiences and true-life stories shared by women of all ages, Sampson deals directly with the shame that comes from the humbling moments in life, as well as from the tragic—sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, abandonment, and more. Then she empowers women to transform their life’s story into ministry, creating ripple effects of hope and healing that can change the world.

Written for any woman whose self-worth has been stolen, Overcomer gives you the courage to kick down the walls of shame and embrace freedom and a future in Christ.

Q and A with the Author

What is shame?

Shame encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is to think back on a moment when you experienced it. You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort, or self-consciousness (I was a middle schooler with pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so yeah, I know self-consciousness!). Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, such as when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured, or abused. Another difficulty with shame is that so many of us live under the weight of it without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

Add to all of that, the pressure in our Christian culture to operate above reproach all the time, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. We may even believe that if we aren’t shaming ourselves, we’re in danger of becoming prideful. So we beat ourselves up as the “better,” more Christlike option. It’s a vicious cycle. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough.

Throughout Overcomer, I share my own history of “not-enoughness,” along with stories from others who’ve overcome shame in their lives— ranging from situations of abuse to struggles with body image and eating, to everyday laughable imperfections.

The ultimate message of Overcomer is this: in spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to Jesus, our shame is transformed into sparkling, beaming joy (Psalm 34:5). There may be moments in life when we feel condemned, but when our identity is centered in Christ, we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance.

In your new book, Overcomer, you share the seven lies shame tells women. Can you go into one of those for us?

While shame tells us many lies, ranging from My past is unsalvageable to I’ll never be free from shame, I believe one of its most insidious lies is that because of shame in our pasts, we are unfit to be used by God in powerful ways. Regardless of the form your shame might take, sooner or later it will try to make you feel disqualified so that you question your ability to be a good anything—leader, employee, friend, date, spouse, parent, even child of God. But the truth for us today is the same truth that empowered Paul in 2 Corinthians. The grace of God is sufficient, not in spite of our weaknesses, brokenness, and shame but smack-dab in the middle of them. That’s where the power is, according to Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ … That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses. … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10).

In other words, if we believe we’re insufficient (and even if in some circumstances we are), it doesn’t even matter, because Jesus is more than sufficient and he qualifies us—for grace, for mercy, and for meaningful service in the kingdom of God.

The title of your book is, Overcomer, what does that word mean to you? What will your readers take away from it?

About a year ago, a friend heard the book title and asked, “Who’s the overcomer? You? The reader? Her question struck me as funny at the time, because I initially thought, “Well, of course it’s the reader! Who else would it be?”

But then I realized something that changed the roadmap of the book. The only reason we can overcome our shame is because we have an Overcomer in Christ. He endured the ultimate shame so that we no longer have to. That’s what I want readers to leave with – the truth that even if they still battle shame at times (and we all do), they have, in Jesus, a Savior and a Shame Remover—a Sovereign Ruler who compels our shame to bow down before his authority. In other words, even if your past is dark, even if you’ve spent your entire life feeling like a replica of yourself, even if you think you don’t measure up, even if you’ve been hiding in shame for years, you can overcome shame because your Overcomer already has.

As the mother of boys, do you see the same issues of shame with males?

Dr. Brené Brown, the leading expert on shame, told a joke at the recent Global Leadership Summit that the main trigger of shame for women is body image, and the main trigger of shame for men is women. (My husband wholeheartedly agrees.) Man or woman, child or adult, I think the source of shame is always the same; it’s that general I am Not Enough-ness.

My boys are young, but their age group is already beginning to size each other up—athletically, academically, even comparing video game prowess—and they can sometimes feel like they are lacking. As for the adult male friends in my life, they often admit to feeling ashamed over similar things—their own status in athletics, or in their careers, or in relationships.

And while the big shame triggers and shame reactions may be different for men and women (and from person to person), I wonder if shame isn’t just as pervasive among young boys and men as it is for women. It’s just subtler because men aren’t always encouraged or given the opportunities to talk about their feelings. So the challenge for me as a mom of boys is to help them recognize when they feel ashamed, teach them how to talk about it, and model ways for them to face shame with courage.

The challenge is the same for all of us. Rather than push it aside, run away from it, or let it control us, we have to learn to approach shame with a healthy curiosity. Overcomer is filled with practical tools to equip the reader to do just that.

The phrase from your book, “shame flourishes in silence” is really powerful. Can you explain how this happens and what we can do to stop it?

The root of the word shame is actually derived from the phrase, to cover. Just as Adam and Eve were so ashamed of their sin they covered themselves with fig leaves, over and over again we instinctually follow their lead. Anytime we feel ashamed, on any level, the last thing we want to do is broadcast those feelings to the world around us. Shame loves to isolate and isolation loves to keep us from experiencing the benefits of community.

Far too often we believe the shame-lie that our imperfections equal our inadequacy, and that exposing our flaws will reveal spiritual immaturity or lack of faith. So we suffer silently, saying nothing about our inner pain. In the meantime, our shame roots grow deeper.

There is greater freedom and deeper joy to be had when we are willing to break the silence of shame and reveal our authentically-flawed selves to each other. It’s ironic, actually. As we disclose our weaknesses to others, that act actually strengthens us and our communities to continue overcoming shame. Acts of vulnerability produce contagious courage.

At the end of the day, vulnerability doesn’t have to be overly complicated, excessively dramatic, or heavily programmed. In fact, the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in community are the organic ones; when one person talks about a struggle and another says, “Oh, I struggle with that too, but I never came to you because I assumed you had it all together.”

Overcomer equips readers with the courage necessary to begin coming out of the darkness, kicking down the walls of shame, and embracing freedom and future in Christ.

© (Sections taken from Overcomer by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan.www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, church planter, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin and three young sons.

Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul, www.aubreysampson.com

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