Recently my kid got into some trouble at school. I was sure that everyone was talking about what a bad mother I was. My shame started driving me. “Let’s judge them before they can judge me, who the hell is responsible for this witch hunt? What happened to grace? What about forgiveness?” (Shame can be pretty slick, it hides its crap under the guise of love and grace). Next up in the parade of compulsive thoughts came false pride. It pulled me in to shrink behind the pages of my journal, scribbling words like “they must know what’s best…” and “they are the professionals.” Something was definitely amiss…
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about guilt. Guilt and shame are different things. Guilt says, “I did something wrong”, and it’s rather useful. If feel guilty about something, I probably need to right some kind of wrong. Shame says, “I AM something wrong”, and it’s not useful. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite of useful. It’s harmful.
Shame hides. Hard to discern, it sometimes feels like power or self pity. It sticks in the corners of our personalities, like the Oogey Boogey Man, sludge in the cracks. Like black tar weather stripping, keeping everything out – including light, love and connection. It drives our unconscious behavior, only surfacing when fear flushes it out of hiding. It drags our favorite character flaws with it when it comes. Our coping defenses jumping into action. Self righteousness and judgement hop to attention.
Brene Brown did extensive research to discover that we all have shame, no one wants to talk about it and the only way to get rid of it is to recognize it, walk through it and get to the other side. In her words, you have to “embrace the suck.”
Personally, I have to ask for Divine Intercession. I need God to remove the Oogey Boogy. And he does. But what blows my mind is the sheer volume of the muck. Just when you think you’re done- “But wait! there’s more!” Maybe that’s God’s way of keeping us reliant on Him. Maybe it’s just the human condition – I don’t know. The why behind the shame is really immaterial , it’s the how that really matters. How to recognize and release the shame.
Just for Today
I’m going to pay attention. What happens when I get scared? Where does it show up in my body? How do I want to act? Is the action loving? Kind? Unselfish? If not, then what do I need to do instead. If I’m in conflict with someone or something, what is it about? Am I being self righteous? Self pitying? Somewhere in between?
God help me to become aware of when shame is surfacing. Please take my shame. Grant me the willingness to let it go. Allow me to relinquish my right to be right. Help me trust in you and your perfect guidance.