Growing in holiness is always a response to what God is already doing in our hearts. Even the desire to grow is itself a gift of grace.
Pope Francis teaches that God "asks us to examine what is within us – our desires, anxieties, fears and questions – and what takes place all around us – 'the signs of the times' – and thus to recognize the paths that lead to complete freedom” (Gaudete et Exsultate 168).
In other words, we recognize in our own hearts and minds where God is present and where he's moving us. This awareness requires a level of vulnerability, an honesty about our desires and sins, with the Lord. Fear and shame, however, can be an obstacle to having this vulnerability with God.
Francis continues, "We need, though, to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us and to expel the fear that makes us ban him from certain parts of our lives” (GE 175).
When our fear and shame prevents us from being vulnerable, I think we often replace vulnerability with performance—performative piety, regimented programs of asceticism, or striving to heal ourselves of our own sins and bad habits. We try to make ourselves good enough for God instead of vulnerably letting God meet us where we're at.
Knowledge, deep and personal knowledge, of who God is—his goodness, gentleness, and power—is what frees us from fear and shame. Not programs that simply encourage more piety and asceticism.
As Jesus prayed to his Father, "this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).