Note to Leaders:

This week’s message and discussion might bring up issues people need help with. When people are walking through difficult seasons of life, they will turn to their small group and to us as their leaders for support.

If there are people in your group who need support beyond what you are able to provide, please reach out to your coach or director. We can provide referrals to counselors or help get people connected with one of our Care & Recovery groups.


Series Introduction

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up physically, emotionally and spiritually. If we can inspire, help, equip or challenge people to just LET IT GO, we can change our overall well-being in life.

  • What’s a song that takes you back to high school? What specific memories does it make you think of?


Sermon Introduction

Our past—things that happened to us or choices we made—triggers memories, much like the soundtrack of our high school years. Only some of these aren’t fond memories but moments we are deeply ashamed of. We were wounded, and we can’t let it go.

Many of us (even those of us who would call ourselves Jesus Followers) carry so much heavy stuff around that wreaks havoc in our lives. These things affect us emotionally, physically, relationally. They follow us to work and impact the way we do our jobs. They filter the way we make decisions. We find ourselves unable to give or receive love, and the stuff we refuse to let go of literally makes us sick.

  • When is a time that holding on to something made a significant impact on you?


Understanding

“The difference between guilt and shame is very clear in theory. We feel guilty for what we do. We feel shame for what we are. A person feels guilty because he DID something wrong. A person feels shame because he IS something wrong.” –Lewis Smedes

It is unresolved guilt that becomes shame. Many of us have seen that play out in our own lives and in the lives of our family members. Jesus knew this, which is why he made such a big deal out of forgiving those who have hurt us.

Shame attacks your core identity and starts to redefine you to you. It changes you. You no longer see yourself as a unique, priceless, deeply loved child of God but as someone who is not worthy enough.

When that happens, our true identity gets hacked and we stop believing in our God-given worthiness and start trying to prove our worth by constantly striving, performing, pleasing, and perfecting. You start believing lies that the enemy tells you and start engaging in negative self-talk with words like “I’m so stupid… I’m so ugly… I’m so unwanted.”

We bargain with ourselves saying “If I was thinner or richer or _______________ I would be good enough.” We start to believe that God created us as unlovable rather than unique and deeply loved.

  • What are some of the things you do to try to prove your worth to yourself and to those around you?

The truth is, we don’t have to do anything to prove our worth.  Jesus did that when he died on the cross for us.  We’re worth the price of the Son of God Himself.

In her book “The Gift of Imperfection,” Brene Brown—author, researcher, and professor—shared Ten Guideposts for Wholehearted Living:

1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think

2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism

3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness

4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark

5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty

6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison

7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle

9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”

These guideposts to whole-hearted living describe what Jesus called life to the full. They involve letting go of those things that keep us in unhealthy patterns and unhealthy ways of thinking, allowing us to embrace the life Jesus came to give us.

  • Which one of the ten guideposts do you need to cultivate in your life, and what steps do you need to take to cultivate it?

Have volunteers read Hebrews 10:11-18 and 1 John 2:28-3:3.

Shame tells us that God can never forget what we've done., but the words of God that we read here tell us a better story.

  • What keeps you from believing that God loves you enough to forget your sins? 

Have a volunteer read Psalm 32:1-5.

David prayed to God after he made what might have been the worst mistake of his life. He got a married woman pregnant and then had her husband killed to cover it up.

When David hid what he had done, he found himself wasting away, but when he came clean God forgave him, even though his actions were horrible. David approached God with vulnerability rather than allowing shame keep him from being in God’s presence. Our lives would be so much better if we would be let go and experience God’s grace and healing in our lives.

  • Does your own experience resonate with David’s? Do you find that when you’re honest about your past it brings forgiveness and healing? Why do you think that is?

Have volunteers read Hebrews 10:19-39, 1 John 3:4-10, and Romans 6.

No matter what we’ve done, no matter what is in our past, Jesus offers us hope, healing, and forgiveness. God calls us not to continue in the things that have caused such deep shame in our lives but to give them up and to follow His plan and His path, which leads us into lives that are satisfying and full of purpose and meaning.

  • What is one step you can take that would bring honor and glory to God?

Mike shared with us five simple steps to help us let go of our hurts, guilt and shame.

  • Embrace brokenness

  • Relinquish control

  • Evaluate myself with fearless honesty

  • Think a whole new way

  • Encourage others with my life and story

We don’t have to let shame rule our lives. We can do what David did and approach God, be honest, admit our brokenness and lean into Him. He wants us to be free, and when we find freedom, we get to share our story.

Remember that God doesn’t just forgive our sins. He also removes the shame that accompanies them.

When we refuse to own our story, our story ends up owning us. It doesn’t have to be that way. When we own our story and get honest with God and other people, we’ll find grace, freedom, and unfailing love.


Application

Here are several steps we can take to let go of our shame. Have each person in the group select one to implement and share with the group how everyone can support him/her in that step.  Let everyone know that they don’t need to share any more than they are comfortable with about what they are struggling with, and remind them there is no shame in getting meeting with a counselor or otherwise getting help. Quite the opposite, it’s something to be proud of.

  • Cultivate one of the ten guideposts for wholehearted living by implementing the steps you identified earlier.

  • Create your own spiritual soundtrack. Find Scriptures to that address the shame you are facing. Read these Scriptures each day.  You might write them on sticky notes and put them on your mirror or on your dashboard. Internalize these passages. When guilt and shame creep back in, focus on what God says. Bring a verse to share with your group next week.

  • Share about the shame you’re experiencing with someone else in the group. Sharing our stories brings freedom. Being willing to be vulnerable takes courage but when we share our stories with people who respond with empathy and understanding, shame won’t survive.

  • Meet with a Christian counselor who can help you process the shame you are feeling. Your small group leader can connect you with someone from our small groups team who can refer you to a counselor.

  • Join one of our Care and Recovery groups so that you can get help with the issue you are facing and ultimately find hope and healing.