Forgiveness: Chip Dodd On Shame and Forgiving Ourselves

Forgiveness: Chip Dodd On Shame and Forgiving Ourselves
“Hi, I’m Robin. I’m a single mom of 2 boys. I feel like such a failure in so many ways. I have serious regrets about my past, even stuff before I was married. I know God forgives me, but I just don’t know if I can forgive myself. So even though the divorce wasn’t all my fault, in fact, he was the one who left, I still can’t help feeling so ashamed. I feel like there’s something wrong with me. I feel like damaged goods.”
How do we get past the things we’ve done or left undone, the weaknesses we have and the shame that we carry around? The concept of forgiving ourselves is difficult but important.
Chip Dodd, author, speaker, counselor and resident expert for Solo Parent Society, talks about shame and forgiveness. Chip shares there is a big difference between guilt and shame. Chip says, “We are all made to belong and matter. That is essential.”  Healthy shame is when we recognize our need for connection, love and care. Admitting these innate needs is the experience of healthy shame. This is the common human experience. Chip says, “We are all made to need, to feel, to desire, to long and to hope. The gift of healthy shame is humility. We are all made out of dirt. I need you. You need me. I make mistakes and so do you.” Healthy shame also says, “I’m not God and neither are you.” This recognition of being human allows us to feel empathy for ourselves and for others and leads us to compassion.
Guilt is whenever we do something that goes against a healthy value system. Guilt occurs when we do something that harms someone. Guilt occurs when we cause something, whereas shame is an awareness and understanding of our shared humanity. Healthy shame leads to good guilt. Good guilt is guilt that leads us to seek forgiveness for something we’ve done. Good guilt enables us to pursue relationship with someone we’ve hurt. Good guilt is restorative. Toxic shame on the other hand is not innate. It is something we take on when we are rejected often enough to internalize it into negative feelings or perceptions of ourselves. Toxic shame is not a healthy awareness of our humanity. “Toxic shame is contempt toward myself for being human”, according to Chip. This rejection of our normal humanity and needs is what typifies toxic shame. Toxic shame doesn’t come from God. It comes from those around us who have rejected and hurt us. “We begin to identify ourselves according to the relationships we experience”, says Chip, and this is where toxic shame comes from.
With toxic shame, to be in need is humiliating. With healthy shame, to be in need is humility. Toxic shame leads to seeking relief often in the form of addiction or unhealthy performance. In his book, Hope in the Age of Addiction, Chip shares that addiction is a reaction to toxic shame. We overcome toxic shame by embracing healthy shame. Healthy shame is the portal toward overall health.
Chip Dodd’s work in The Voice of the Heart comes up often in discussions with single parents perhaps because we are so in touch with our needs and our healthy shame. Healthy shame allows us to admit our needs and have them met in healthy ways.
Guilt is a feeling we have that leads us to seek forgiveness from God and from others. Toxic shame makes us hide from what we’ve done wrong. Often single parents feel the weight of both. Guilt leads to deliverance and freedom and toxic shame to bondage.  
Forgiving ourselves involves embracing healthy shame and accepting our humanity. This acceptance gives us the ability to admit what we’ve done wrong without hating ourselves. Solo Parent Society is stepping into people’s lives when they are at the point of saying “I’m worthless” and you are saying “No” and becoming an advocate for them. When we embrace healthy shame and can forgive ourselves, we find the ability to see God’s power, possibility and potential in the “glorious ruins” of our lives. If you give God the glorious ruins of your life, something can be built from them.
Chip believes we need advocates to help us on this journey and says Solo Parent Society is one of them. SPS brings hope to hopelessness and brings healthy shame to toxic shame. It provides a path of forgiveness for what you have done and helps you heal from regrets that are false.
Often, we feel like a mess, but God sees beauty in us. Much like a garden full of blooms that is also riotous, there is beauty in our lives even when we think things are out of order. Solo Parent Society is an advocacy network for those who feel guilty for being human, but we must recognize our humanity. It’s the gateway to all the beatitudes Jesus talks about.
How do we forgive ourselves? Chip says this can only be accomplished when we accept how God sees us. This is hard work. God declares how He sees us which is through the eyes of love, care, and tenderness. We must submit to God for forgiveness. This includes some sadness and regret. We wish we were perfect and hadn’t made mistakes, but this is part of the human experience. To have sadness, hurt or regret, wishing things had been different than they were, is an expression of love. We can’t make things all right again. Only God can do that but the feelings we carry can be released. We can face the sadness we feel with courage and turn it over to God. We can examine what happened with God and allow ourselves to feel sad in it but also let the hope of God return. No mistake is too great to overwhelm the forgiveness and hope of God. This feeling that you can’t be forgiven is toxic shame. This judgment of ourselves doesn’t reflect God’s truth and love for us. Love is more powerful than toxic shame. We are all in need of the same God and the same forgiveness, from the smallest to the largest. Sometimes we run from shame because we feel weak, exposed and vulnerable. It is hard to embrace the dependent side of ourselves and our need for God. The doorway to being human and being forgiven is dependence on God through relationship with Him. It is admitting our needs and letting them be met in Him and with others.  
Chip shares that the starting point to heal from toxic shame is admitting we need help and finding it from people who understand who understand pain, who accept their own need for forgiveness, who have walked through healing like those you find at Solo Parent Society or a recovery network. Chips says we eliminate toxic shame through the following steps:
  • Start with “I feel….” Identify the feeling
  • Explore it and where it came from
  • Tell someone
As you deal with feelings of shame and finding the path to peace, we would be honored to be part of your support network.  Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts, and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single parent families, go to Questions? Email us at

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