Freedom from the Tunnel of Shame

I believe one of the most effective ways to raise great leaders is to BE great leaders ourselves. This means continuing to learn, change and grow to be more effective in our MANY roles.

It also means living authentically, or with integrity. What saddens me is that so many people have never even tasted the freedom of living authentically.

Can I encourage you today to soak this post in and really, truly get honest about living authentically?

Let’s think about authenticity on a continuum. If you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 where one means you live completely HIDDEN from the world and 10 means you live completely SEEN (you never hide who you really are), what would your number be?


Before I began studying leadership, I lived in the negative – so completely hidden that when I look back on that season, the sense I get is that I lived in a black tunnel, with walls so thick no one could have discovered my true heart.

I had no idea how cold I appeared to others.

How “stuck up” some people thought I was.

Or how unfair it was to HIDE the value God knitted into the very fiber of my being.

The truth is that I lived in extreme fear. Fear that I would be “found out”. That the true me would be known and would never be good enough to be loved, accepted and valued.

Deep breath, ladies. What does this mean?

It was only recently that I read a book by Donald Miller called Scary Close. In his book, Miller explained perfectly what this means. God designed us with lovely hearts and valuable skills to offer the world.

Somewhere along the way, an experience made some of us feel ashamed. For most of us, this is more complicated than one single experience, but I remember feeling like I had to lie about my dad not living with us. If I had to lie about it, then I was also ashamed of it.

Because I felt SHAME, I learned to ACT in a way that would cover up that shame. Donald Miller describes it like this: we have a “self, covered in shame and hiding behind an act” (p 21).

“Shame…caused me to hide. And that…is a problem. Because the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. And we have to be known to connect'” (p 20 in Scary Close by Donald Miller).

My act was trying to live perfectly. Literally. And pleasing others by doing exactly what they expected.

The problem with the act is that it does not work. We do not really connect. We don’t truly know love, either the giving or receiving. We live thirsty. Aching to be seen.

“Those of us who are never satisfied with our accomplishments secretly believe nobody will love us unless we’re perfect” (p 44 in Scary Close by Donald Miller).

What do we do when the act is not working?

We cope or we change.

Coping mechanisms for people who hide tend to look an awful lot like addiction. Running, drinking, getting absorbed in technology, smoking, eating excessively (or not eating enough) or dare I say, reading? Doing any activity because it is easier to do that than to connect… well, that is called hiding.

Change is scary. I remember trembling the day I admitted I needed help learning to come out of the black tunnel of shame. I trembled off and on for years, not knowing what it looked like to live authentically and certainly not believing I could be loved just as I am.

“It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person” (p 65 in Scary Close by Donald Miller).

I pray that none of us are continuing to live an act. But in a world where Photoshop erases imperfections, image is everything and judgment is rampant, I am betting more of us are living an act that we even understand.

Hear this, sweet friends:

“It’s a beautiful moment when somebody wakes up to this reality, when they realize God created them so other people could enjoy them, not just endure them” (p 127 in Scary Close by Donald Miller).

While I wish I could, I most certainly cannot remove the black tunnel of shame from anyone else. It took kind friends, counseling, and making a HARD decision to step out of the tunnel, trembling and all, to practice living authentically; Caring more about being true to who God made me than what others think of me; Giving love rather than looking to receive love.

This life is not about us, friends, yet God graciously gives us opportunities to work on us so that we can be the blessing he intended us to be in this world.

Continuing to live in a tunnel of shame means we are living hidden from our own children. Can we expect them to live with integrity if we are hiding? Can we expect our precious little ones to be honest with us if we cannot live honestly ourselves?

Becoming authentic people means we are also creating a safe place for our kids to be authentic too. Let’s not make them feel like they need to hide because we are afraid to come out of our own tunnel.

“I wonder how many people are withholding the love they could provide because they secretly believe they have fatal flaws.” (p 129 in Scary Close by Donald Miller).

If you are a woman who knows you live in a tunnel of shame (even just a little one), can I encourage you to begin this journey of living authentically by reading Scary Close?

Living authentically can feel scary – really scary (and I am certainly still a work in progress). But it is so worth it. I don’t want to know the act. I want to know the real you. (check out the Real Me by Natalie Grant).

After you have read Scary Close and still feel like trembling, go ahead… step out on a limb. If it feels too scary with family or friends, find a good counselor.

I cannot promise this is an easy journey (in fact, I can promise it is not!), but I can promise it will be worth it.

It is the relationship with our kids that matters most. They are our future, remember? They will be leading this world and the generation that follows them. Scary is worth it if it means living with integrity and showing our kids what being real looks like.



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