The Enemy’s Trifecta

We live in it, under it, over it, around it, through ourselves, through others, sometimes even through our faith and in our calling. The enemy’s trifecta: Guilt, Shame & Reproach.

I’ve always been fascinated by the strength, agility and shear speed of thoroughbred race horses. Averaging 16 hands (64 inches) with a typical weight of nearly 1,200 lbs. The thing that amazes me the most is their ability to maintain a speed of roughly 40 mph for over a mile on those puny little ankles and hooves. The highest race speed recorded over two furlongs is 70.76 km/h (43.97 mph) and was achieved by Winning Brew at the Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania on May 14, 2008. Winning Brew covered the quarter-mile (402 m, two furlongs) in 20.57 sec. She was a two year old filly thoroughbred.

In horse racing a trifecta is a parimutuel bet in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third. Not an easy thing to do. With eight horses in a race that means there’s 336 possible permutations. That’s without taking into consideration the ability of each racehorse, track conditions, wind velocity and a whole host of other factors.

Here’s the thing, how many permutations do we run through each day with the combination of guilt, shame and reproach at our side. The answer? As many as the enemy can toss our way.

“I should have done it differently”
“I shouldn’t have done it at all”
“I hurt them so bad, what was I thinking?”

Guilt is a powerful motivator and the legions of private demons sent to deliver that message spend most of their days reinforcing it. Our humanity and our choices do make us guilty of even those thoughts, deeds, and emotions that we don’t see coming. BUT, we do need to recognize that we have an enemy hell-bent on taking us down.

Guilt is defined as a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes –accurately or not-(emphasis added) that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. -Wikipedia

The standards of conduct we violate are God’s standards but we’re forgiven through Christ’s atoning death on the cross. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” –James 8:1 (ESV)

Let’s drop the guilt trip and take back the territory of the mind that Satan and his minions seek to control. We have that authority. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”  –2nd Corinthians 10:3-5.

What about shame?
“I’m incompetent”
“I’m nothing and never will be”
“I’m broken and beyond repair”

Shame is imbedded in a state of the mind. Notice the “I’m” statements. It goes beyond what you think you might have done or didn’t do, it’s about what and who you think you are. But again, where does that message come from? We need to recognize that it may have roots in those that influenced us most in life: parents, guardians, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches. We get wounded by people’s assessment of us all our lives. The real freedom comes in knowing that those same statements coming from someone else may actually be caused by their own self-image, or lack thereof. When the 18” trip from the mind to the heart is taken, we understand that we’re all broken and in need of a Savior. Even those that hurt us the most, often not intentionally but due to their own brokenness.

Shame is defined as a negative, painful, social emotion that “…results from comparison of the self’s action with the self’s standards…

It’s imperative that we know where the second place in the trifecta originates. All the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to hide themselves; they realized they were naked not only physically but in their sin nature which was immediately discovered and shame became the theme of mankind as we now know it. It was then that we began the long and impossible journey to hide who we really are; a poser of sorts. Freedom comes in knowing we don’t need to pose, we need to accept what Christ did for us and reflect him, not some twisted version of who we think we are. There’s no shame in that.

And reproach?
Merriam-Webster defines reproach as an expression of disapproval or disappointment.
“You really blew it this time”
“I am so disappointed in you”
“Not again…”

“It’s the voice that reminds us of our past wrongs and behaviors and tries to convince us that we’re creatures of habit, not creatures of the Creator.”

The third “jewel” in this trifecta nags at the core of us even when we’re enjoying victory. It’s the voice that reminds us of our past wrongs and behaviors and tries to convince us that we’re creatures of habit, not creatures of the Creator. It’s this voice whose goal is invoke in us the “loser,” put out to pasture, left in the stable and never fit to run the race again.

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.” – Ephesians 1:4

Combine the Enemy’s Trifecta with the Two Thieves (the regrets of the past and anxiety over the future – more on this another time) and you have the perfect storm. A Tsunami that makes the racing conditions impossible. But it’s no storm the God of the Universe can’t calm. And it’s no race our Creator can’t win. Just be the jockey willing to rest on Him and ride wherever He intends to take you.

Steve Adams – Business & Life Coach

  • Barney C McIntyre

    That’s good Steve. I especially like the horse racing metaphor. Perhaps you could say that we are on the home stretch!

    • Barney, better late than never. Appreciate that perspective and if we look around I’d say you’re right. Home stretch it is which means we should lengthen our stride and finish strong. Wouldn’t you agree.