Yes. We are doing this. We’re going to talk about shame. Shame in all of its seemingly unquenchable glory. But before we delve into the topic completely, blind and holding our breath, we thought it might be good to start with a definition. We’re both English graduates, after all….seems a respectable place to begin.
Shame is one of those slippery words. It moves about in your hand any time you try to grasp it firmly. I don’t know about you, but I find it to be so innate within me that it is hard to muster up a definition that seems clear and distinct.
The dictionary defines as ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.’ It’s the moment you’re discovered. Found out. Exposed. The moment someone sees, or you think they see, a part of you that you’d rather remained in the shadows.
But I think it goes deeper than this. I think shame begins with our identity. It’s not just the ‘finding out’ about something, it’s the WHAT that is being found out. And that ‘what’….that is me. You. Us. WHO we are, not just what we do.
You see, shame ultimately lies inside of us. The lie resides in our hearts. It started in a garden. The covering up of our bodies after believing the lie that we weren’t like God and needed to DO something to be like Him, needed to taste of a fruit in order to perfect our own selves….make our own selves. Believing the lie that God isn’t who He says He is, and we aren’t who He says we are.
Our story started when God breathed into us His life, and declared we were made like Him, in His image….and we were very good. No need to perform or do or strive. Just BE. But we broke it when we believed the voice of shame and fear that questioned His goodness and in turn questioned our own identities. ‘Did He really say this? I don’t think so. But if you do this, if you try to perform this way, you will be perfect. You will be like God.’ Two lies. He isn’t good. And we aren’t enough. We believed. And we were all plunged into the murky depths of shame and fear. Desperately trying to control the ways we are seen and perceived. Covering up with fig leaves and hiding behind bushes.
Shame, as the incomparable Dr. Brene Brown states, ‘is the most powerful, master emotion. It is the fear that we aren’t good enough.’ ….It screams out ‘YOU aren’t good enough….you aren’t strong enough, you aren’t whole enough, you aren’t a good enough friend, you aren’t listening enough, you aren’t loving enough, you aren’t giving enough, you aren’t saying enough, you aren’t being enough….You aren’t enough.’ I believe shame is the root of all the brokenness in our world. What started in the garden has spread like a wildfire of disease through every heart ever to walk this earth.
The good news is that our stories don’t end here. There is a Love that has reached out, beyond all space and time, and declares to our weary and broken hearts, ‘I have loved you always, I will love you always, and I will love you with a perfect love’. Our children’s Bible puts God’s love this way…. ‘A Never-Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love’. This perfect and enduring love, willingly present with us and in us, is what drives out the fear that shame brings into our lives.
So for the next wee while expect a few vulnerable posts about shame experiences in our own lives. Things we’ve wrestled with, lies we’ve believed, and fears that shame has held us captive to. The one thing we ask is this….would you come with us on this journey? Extend grace to us – we will probably get things wrong – and step out in vulnerability. We want to hear your story too.