Why Our "Thorns" Cause Shame

You may have noticed a certain tendency you have, especially when you are under stress. You likely try to fight it but, despite your best efforts, your thoughts and maybe even your actions tend towards this tendency again. I doubt you share the fact that you have this kind of struggle. In fact, many may be surprised… very surprised… if they knew that you did! It may be the last thing that anyone would think you struggle with… and it may be just as surprising to you. What’s more, it may surprise you to know that EVERYONE has such a “thorn” in their life. Your thorn may be judgmentalness, self-centeredness or some kind of addiction, but one thing is for sure… it isn’t pretty!

One of the first references I found to this kind of thorn can be found in the Bible when Paul the Apostle wrote in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians 12:7–9. Yet when he asked God to remove it, his request was denied.

This indicates to me that Paul’s thorn had a purpose. And if his thorn had a purpose, so does yours. We never learn what Paul’s thorn was…what he really struggled with. This also makes me think that such struggles are frequently kept hidden. They are a type of problem that is simply too embarrassing for us to share. This speaks to me of shame.

One thing I have noticed is that something that causes shame in one person, doesn’t in another. There is something about your “hidden tendency” that is very personal. It often seems to go directly against everything you believe in and work hard for. In a word, it seems, “Ungodly.” How can you possibly be a good person and have such “evil” thoughts and tendencies?

Can you see how this way of thinking could destroy your efforts towards continuing your life’s mission? Can you see how continuing on this path might even destroy your sense of who you are? The fear of sharing it will keep you alone in this struggle. But if you were to share it, many would never understand and it may even hurt them, hurt your efforts and cause further pain.

Seeing Through the Shame

But remember - your thorn has a purpose. And, your thorn seems to somehow connect with your life purpose and a strength. It is a wise person’s tendency to be foolish, a beautiful person’s tendency to be ugly and a rich person’s tendency to behave poorly. It is somehow unshakably connected to your life’s purpose and it isn’t going away.

What would happen if your thorn was removed? Would your intelligence turn to wisdom if there wasn’t an internal struggle? Would your beauty bend to the forces of compassion without a personal struggle? Would your wealth serve others or merely serve yourself, if you didn’t struggle like everyone? Would you understand the human condition? Would you be able to relate, or to know the value of love in any relationship? Is it even possible to imagine your greatest gift without the corresponding struggle to ground the gift in its true purpose? In Biblical terms, would it be trying to play God?

Here are a few take-aways:

  1. Everyone’s strengths provide their greatest challenges - know this.
  2. Given your life’s purpose and your strength, your challenge will seem to go directly against your life’s purpose - just like everyone else. Use this knowledge to help direct your efforts toward the wisdom you want to acquire, and then share.
  3. You will tend to keep this challenge secret. There are certain times in certain relationships where sharing this challenge will change lives.
  4. You may not yet be aware of your challenge, but it is there and will one day make itself known. Unawareness of your thorn leaves you defenseless. Seek out others who have your strengths and may have the wisdom you seek.
  5. Times of stress will expose your struggle like the stresses of a “midlife crisis” where the value of your generativity must slowly give way to the value of your integrity.
  6. Relationships and life purpose build resilience as in “Where two or three are gathered…there am I” - The Bible, Matthew 18:20.
  7. Growthful daily structure, spiritual traditions, spiritually oriented groups, prayer, meditation and maintaining a consistent moment-to-moment intent are all helpful.
  8. When you slip, investigate the causes, learn, adjust, build your wisdom and share this wisdom with others.
  9. From time to time you may need to “white knuckle it” but over time you will build resilience and truly prefer not to.
  10. This tendency will never leave as it is a necessary part of you, forcing you to grow and helping you to connect to others knowing the real meaning of love and compassion.

If you are struggling with shame, consider one of the Oneness Memberships or our soon to be released, “Your Healing Touch” audio series.

6 replies
  1. Michael Seng
    Michael Seng says:

    Doc , I paraphrased your thoughts on the thorns in our lives ,and why they are for our own well being

    As we get older , part of our desire and role as a Christian is the transformation into integrity We must trust in the power of integrity . We have to learn how to show integrity and have influence ,which is an unmet need

    Our thorns come from all of our life experiences from birth to today .

    Our thorn is a big reason that we need to rely on God .

    We need to own our thorns.

    We need to own that we are human and our thorns lead us to God .It reminds us of how low we can go ,and then we should realize that it’s in our best interests to be with the Lord .

    It is an anchor to hold on tight to the Holy Spirit .

    The thorn will not go away , yet it is our job to make it go away . If I have that goal , then my goal is to be with God .

    No one sin is worse than another in God’s eyes , yet we condemn ourselves for our sin ,opening the door for the enemy .

    My awareness of my sin is the sum total of experiences from birth to not . God created us uniquely. Each of us has sin in our life. Remember we were sinners in our mother’s womb . Grace comes in when we recognize our sin.

    The sin crystalizes over time .-When we were raised we considered some sins to be egregious. When we get older and then we fall to very sin we thought to be so horrible. We are continually challenged to not condemn ourselves and not to believe our sin is unforgivable .We must realize that no one sin is worse than other .

    Most people are unaware of their sin until they fall , and hopefully to a realization that they need God..

    Paul had a ministry that could have been destroyed by his thorn . He had to rely on God to control his sin

    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:


      I think it is critical that we be able to see clearly that it is in our strongest attributes that we need to take the greatest care not to cause harm to others nor ourselves..

      Dr. Seng

    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:


      Yes, we are not alone. The love in each of us is so much easier to feel and respond to when it is shared!

      Take Care,

      Dr. Seng

  2. Kimberly Wilson
    Kimberly Wilson says:

    Thanks for the article. I believe a couple of my ‘thorns’ that cause me great shame will most likely be taken to the grave with me. I find that I can’t forgive myself and pray daily for forgiveness from my God. I don’t feel as I have been forgiven, even though I know He forgives the repentant sinner. I have been blessed with so many gifts and I just can’t forgive myself for offending my God. My thorn has changed me significantly and I always try to ‘make up’ for what I have done, but feel that no matter what good I try to do, nothing will make up for what I did.

    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:


      I think you and the apostle Paul have a lot in common. I think he would do anything within his human ability for God… unto death. But clearly there was something that he just couldn’t do. It bothered him so much that he asked that “the thorn” be removed.

      We each are given some challenge in our lives that goes directly at the strength that we hold most dear. Apparently this is a part of the plan. Even Paul struggled to understand this.

      So… while we are given to struggle to understand “why we can’t do what we say we must do” (Romans 7)

      From a Oneness Approach perspective our greatest strength will always reach into all of our relationships to make them 1% better each day. If you feel you have done all you can for now in one relationship… work on another. As time goes by… what you learn in other relationships (wisdom) may be able to hel you with the place where you now feel stuck.

      You are right where God wants you, pain, Grace and all!!

      Take Care,

      Dr. Seng


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