Shed the Shame: 4 Ways Shame Adds A Burden to Our Marriage

There’s a gentleman in our church community who’s introduced me and my son to backpacking. Ethan and I have fallen in love with it. We talk about it frequently as, every time we go, we enjoy it immensely and learn something new to apply to our next experience.  That, by itself, would make a good marriage blog.

Find something (potentially new) to with your spouse.
Learn something new about each other.

Now back to my original thought…

One thing we’ve learned about improving our backpacking experience and thus, improving our enjoyment, is to do whatever it takes to shed unnecessary weight in what we carry. I’m not just talking about watching the pounds of equipment but identifying every ounce we put in our packs. Why? Anything we allow, ultimately, somebody has to shoulder it. So Ethan and I spend a good week laying out and identifying everything we intend to take on our journey.

It’s such a simple metaphor and yet, completely profound. If you don’t stop to identify what you’re taking in to your marriage, you may not notice the full weight of the burden in the first part of your marriage journey. But over time, you’ll experience the relational gravity of it and assume the marriage (or your spouse) caused it instead of recognizing that you may have potentially carried it in. Remember: Whatever you allow into the journey of your marriage, somebody has to shoulder it.

This past Sunday, we dealt with the issue of shame at KfirstAnd when I thought about how shame applies to marriage, this backpacking metaphor kicked in. Far too many couples are having their passion, hope, and peace crushed under the weight of shame. What is shame? I describe it this way: guilt is the regret I feel; shame is the guilt I wear. We begin to bear shame when we take our perception of what we don’t have, what we’ve done, or what’s been said and apply it to our identity.  Never forget, “the two become one.” So what you carry, dramatically affects your spouse. 

What causes shame? 

Difference in Upbringing
Good and bad, your history has developed your expectations, built filters for listening, and formed your responses. And at times, if your spouse had a different background, you can see, and even impose, shame upon them as if their upbringing was completely wrong. Just remember: “different” isn’t necessarily “wrong.”

Personal History
The both of you carry into the marriage a bit of baggage (personal history). You carry the experiences of success and failures; victories and devastation. Shame-based thinking take the past and inflicts the future with it. I’m always amazed at the little things in life (tones, scents, scenarios) that trigger something from my past that can cause guilt to resurface and shame to be worn.

Lack of forgiveness
From refusing to forgive your spouse, other people, to even forgiving yourself, unforgiveness doesn’t have to do have anything to do with your marriage to impact your marriage. Inflicting unforgiveness is a violent action against your heart (not to mention the shame you bring upon others). And the more you hold against others, you carry into your marriage. Why? What affects you will infect your marriage.

It’s astounding how much we underestimate the issue of comparison. We spend more time comparing and identifying what we lack instead of appreciating and investing into what we do have. Shame is the offspring of comparison; we either force shame upon ourselves for what we don’t have or see others in shame for how much better we have it.

In the words of one of my favorite preachers, Christine Caine, “The human creation was not made to feel the burden of shame.” That not only applies to individuals, it applies to your marriage. 

My challenge to you today is this: Like my son’s and my preparation for backpacking, take a block of time to really review if your “packing” unneeded shame-weight. Have a talk with your spouse and set up a time (say in a week) to talk about any shame-based thinking or actions that are happening in your marriage. Imagine how much lighter your marital load will feel when you eliminate the unnecessary shame from your marriage. It won’t stop you from working on your journey, but it’ll make the burden that much lighter.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.


Pastor to Pastor: 4 Thoughts About Wearing Your Own Shoes

Pastoring is pressure.

In other news, water is wet and the Detroit Lions are disappointing.

There are a number of “pressure” statements that we as pastors hear. There are very few bigger pressure statements than this one:

“You have big shoes to fill.”

In almost 20 years of ministry, I’ve held 3 positions and I heard it in all of them (as I have followed some legendary youth pastors and lead pastors). In any interviews we’ve had, we were told that we could be ourselves. But through each ministry journey, we discovered the pressure of expectations that were connected to very loved pastors that preceded us. Even after 7 years of Lead Pastoring at Kfirst, people still refer to any one of the previous 3 Lead Pastors and say to me, “You have big shoes to fill.” Part of me doesn’t mind. I’m glad people appreciate my them. But early in ministry (and I’ll admit, early in this position) the added burden was stifling.

It was a previous associate pastor from our church who gave me a word that, to this day, am convinced was a direct word from the Lord. It took me a few years to comprehend it, but it was Brooks McElhenny, the brother of the pastor I followed, said to me,

“Be yourself.”

Two words that I’ve been hanging onto now for 7 years. They are two words I’ve wept over in my prayer closet after getting a nasty email or a cowardly unsigned note in my mailbox (side note: don’t EVER read unsigned notes…if someone don’t have the respect to sign the letter, the letter doesn’t get the respect of being read). They are two words that I have clung to when I am told that I’m not what people expected. Those two words have been the liberation I needed when I want to resort to imitating someone who seems to have more ministry “success” than I am having.

People connect so much success and moments to the monumental ministers in their lives. I believe we should honor them. We shouldn’t disregard their memories or their contribution to the Kingdom. But far too many present pastors are wearing the shoes of the previous pastor. Trying to live up to people’s legacies will cause you to live and die by people’s memories.

You feel you have to continue their story instead of the narrative God want’s to write.
You’ll live out their identity instead of allowing the Holy Spirit shape yours.
You’ll lose out on vision because you can’t get your eyes forward. You and the congregation keep looking back.
You can’t anticipate what God is doing next because you are trying to regain what He already did.

My word to you today: Wear your own shoes. When the previous pastor left, he wore his shoes.

Be yourself.

Being yourself doesn’t throw away what God has done. Put previous pastors in a place of honor not worship. Honor doesn’t mean shrines are built or displays are made. It doesn’t mean you must have them back at the church (though it’s not a bad idea, I’ve had Pastor Dalaba come back).  It’s how you speak of them. It is in the way you refer to them. We honor those we follow; We don’t worship them. All the glory and honor belongs to Christ and Him alone.

Being yourself  is a statement of stewardship not an excuse to never change. Be teachable and don’t stop growing. I love learning from both older and younger pastors. I want my life and ministry to continue to take shape.

Being yourself is a protection from trying to imitate others. Use other’s examples to sharpen you not so that you reflect them. God breathed into His Spirit into you to be an ambassador for Him not the preacher you idolize.

Being yourself is a guard against competition. Why? It makes you value the work of the Kingdom. And when you value the work of the Kingdom, it releases you to celebrate the work of the Kingdom in other churches. You’ll celebrate with other pastors instead of competing with them. 

I am not Pastor Pace. I am not Pastor Dalaba. I am not Pastor McElhenny. They left and so did their shoes. The shoes I wear, the role I play, and the pastor I am is who God made me and who God continuing to shape. 

Wear your own shoes. Be bold in being the minister God sent to your specific place. And when you are gone, take your shoes with you so that the next person can be themselves. 

I believe in you. I’m praying for you.


Thanks for letting me ramble…




Sucking The Joy From Your Life! 10 things I want you to know about comparison.

Anne and I have different running styles.  The fact is this: We love to run, but there really is nothing similar about the WAY we run.

Anne runs much greater distances but at a slower pace.  I run at a much faster pace but at shorter distances.  When we run together, the distance she wants to run makes me groan.  The pace that I’m used to running frustrates her.  When we approach hills, I want to power up them.  She likes to walk up them.  She can run in the silence of nature and pray and/or reflect upon the day.  I love to pray on a run, but I must have something playing in my ears. 


Simply said, we approach running quite differently.  And neither one is the perfect way to run.  We have learned to enjoy our past-time without ruining it with comparing our styles to the other.  We’ve even ceased comparing our running to other people.  Anne and I will try to learn more about running, but we’ve resolved that “comparison” just sucks the joy out of our experience.

Know this: comparison can be a very good thing.  From comparing Qdoba to Moe’s all the way to comparing running shoes to get the best purchase that gives the best performance.  Comparison is a great power that needs to be handled with great responsibility.  But unfortunately, it has become a tool for the enemy to use to reduce our joy to dust.  I think there might be no other issue that Anne and I counsel more with people than with the issues of comparison.  It comes up constantly with us because, as just stated, we hear about it from others and we, Anne and I, can tend to suffer from it.  It’s brutal and violent. Comparison wants to shred your joy apart to be the shattered remains of what it should be.  

As I said last Sunday at Kfirst

Happiness is a byproduct of circumstantial vision; Joy is a byproduct of Godly perspective.

What element would love to keep you focused on your circumstances? Comparison.  Like so many things, comparison has been so misused and mishandled that it can be such a detriment to your life.  Here are 10 things I want you to beware of when it comes to an unhealthy use of comparison: 

  1. Comparison is selfish in nature.  “Why don’t I get as much as someone else?”
  2. Comparison is a thief. It robs the enjoyment from you and others that God designed you to have.
  3. Comparison is used to elevate ourselves instead of God.  “We can do it in order to look better than others.”
  4. Comparison can be a cop-out.  We’ll find someone who we think is “far worse off”, compare ourselves, and give ourselves permission to not change because, “hey, at least I’m not the other person!”
  5. Comparison can be laced with fear.  You match yourself against an ideal and think “I’ll never be able to do/accomplish what he/she has done.  So why try?”
  6. Comparison is manipulating. We’ll try to use in on our spouse, children, friends, etc.  “If I can compare them to who I want, I can steer them in the direction I want them to go.”
  7. Comparison is stifling. We use it to dampen the joy of the people in our life who are celebrating something we can’t celebrate with them.   
  8. Comparison will make you spiritually impotent.  When you have a reputation of using comparison to stifle joy and manipulate, it can keep you from imparting the love of Christ into others. 
  9. Comparison blinds. It leaves a fog around your life that keeps you unable to see His truth in your life.
  10. Comparison can be judgement.  We can develop an “ideal” and think everyone has to live up to that. People won’t know what they want to tell you because they won’t know what you’re comparing them to.

Be cautious with your living.  Watch your life and prevent comparison from sucking the joy out of your walk with Christ. If you’re really itching to compare something, then reflect on Psalm 86:8-10 (MSG),

There’s no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord, and nothing to compare with your works. All the nations you made are on their way, ready to give honor to you, O Lord, Ready to put your beauty on display, parading your greatness, And the great things you do— God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The Comparison Conundrum


My kids have been into riddles lately.  The bonus for me: I’ve heard all of the ones they’ve been telling me and it’s sent them on a journey to find a riddle that, one I haven’t heard, and two a riddle that would stump me. Cammi and Ethan are trying to find the right “conundrum.” The first time I heard that word used was on the Batman television show.  It was The Riddler who referred to himself as “The Count Of Conundrums.” Since then, it has been one of those words that one of those words that has stuck with me.

co·nun·drum/kəˈnəndrəm/ A confusing and difficult problem or question.


One of the struggles in marriage that Anne and I have dealt with so many couples is the issue of comparison. Comparison happens when someone gets an ideal in their head, places it upon the spouse, and then enforces rules and expectations to become that ideal.  It can come from seeing how someone else runs their marriage.  It can come from watching a movie and expecting a spouse to respond the say way that you just witnessed.  Believe me, I’m not against personal and marital goal setting.  But comparison can be dangerous.

Comparison is one of the reasons (apart from many reasons) why pornography is so dangerous.  We see something and we compare our real experiences or expectations with it. Now when I use the word “pornography”, I mean more than just naked people  on a screen or a magazine.  There is emotional pornography. Emotional pornography is unhealthy emotional and relational expectations portrayed in so much of our media.  It’s effects are very similar to the traditional definition of pornography. Just as there is sexual excitement surrounding the mystery and allure of what flesh might be seen in a movie known for its racy reputation, so too are we drawn in with an anticipation for the emotional and physical high of a romance film. From either aspect of porn, we see it develop comparisons…an unhealthy expectation to what intimacy is.  We end up confusing ourselves, our spouse with comparisons.

We cause a conundrum.

Listen to these quotes:

“Did you know ____________ does this with their spouse?”
“Why don’t you act like ____________?”
“When are you going to do ____________ like ____________ does in their marriage?”
“You would NEVER do that.  You’re not as observant as ____________.”
“I wish you were more like ____________.”
“But it works for ____________ and ____________.”
“Why don’t you respond to me like ____________?”

As abusive as some of these sound, some of you reading this can accurately proclaim that you’ve never verbally have said anything close to this.  My question is: Have you thought it? Has your heart meditated on it?  Are you obsessed with it so much that you’re finding yourself bitter and upset with your spouse when they’ve done nothing wrong?

Your comparisons and comments are causing a conundrum (A confusing and difficult problem).

What type of problems do comparisons make?

To name a few…

1 – You build resentment with your spouse. Bitterness seeds in and frustration grows.
2 – Trust is fragmented! Paranoia sets in.  Fear feeds ill thoughts and disconnection.
3 – You set yourself up for Failure. You develop impossible goals for you and your spouse that cannot be attained.  You feel already defeated before anything has begun.
4 – The attitude of “why try?” develops.   It’s easy to give up when you feel you don’t have a change to meet the expectations to begin with. You think: why even start?
5 – Comparison show you haven’t released/forgiven.  Sometimes comparisons result from past issues and you haven’t let go of. You start comparing with high expectations.  And when your spouse hasn’t gotten there at the pace you are expecting, harsh words and thoughts develop.

Here’s some helps…the first 3 from me and the last 2 from Anne:

Guard your “inputs.”  

Psalms 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” The word “counsel” means advice.  Be aware of who and WHAT is advising and/or influencing you.  Know what is influencing your marriage. Keep in check television, magazines, websites, movies, friends, and even family. Guard yourself.  Guard your spouse.

Have reasonable and biblical expectations

– Do yo have higher standards than God? This is what Jesus dealt with the a group of religious men on in Luke 5:33-6:11 Make sure what you are expecting lines up with what God is expecting.

Walk in forgiveness

– Choose to walk in forgiveness the way the Lord deals with your sins. Isaiah 43:25 says “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” When you walk with that perspective, it becomes incredibly difficult to hold on to your spouses faults.

Appreciate your spouse (from Anne)

– Value your spouse and their needs.  Value who God has made them.  Remember your spouse has been, according to Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Find contentment (from Anne)

– Contentment isn’t settling and resting.  Contentment is satisfaction in how you are growing and progression. In Philippians 4:11, Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul didn’t sit back “content.” He was content with who God made him and content pressing on to grow in his passion for Christ.


Flee from comparisons.  Don’t put your marriage in a conundrum!


Thanks for letting me ramble…