Holy Asides
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March 17, 2015, 8:00 PM

A Victory Over Shame


The other day as I was driving out to Stone Mountain to get “free” service done on my car, I was re-listening to Brené Brown’s TED talks on YouTube. The focus of her talks are about “living wholeheartedly with vulnerability and without shame.” Shame is toxic. It is behind our fears, our self-doubt, and our insecurities. Underneath nearly every addiction will lie a pattern of shame, whereby we seek to disassociate from ourselves—with firm conviction that we are not (fill in the blank) enough. (Fill in the blank for yourself: good, smart, skinny, extraordinary, successful, etc.) Of course, even without an addiction, each of us goes through this same struggle day by day. Theologically speaking it is important to separate shame from guilt. We experience guilt when we have sinned through “our own fault: in thought and word and deed, in things done and left undone.” We confess those sins so that we are forgiven and restored to God’s grace. In short, guilt occurs when we do something that we know was a mistake. Shame, on the other hand, claims, “I am a mistake.” There is a world of difference. You and I are not mistakes. We have been created in the glorious image of God. We are children of light, set free from sin through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know this (maybe), yet it’s a continuous daily struggle to overcome the reality that we are enough.

 

OK. So that’s the background. I am half-way through this TED talk when I arrive at the dealership and sit and wait for my car to be done. But of course I have my laptop and they have the internet, so I can work. I get an email from Kim Palmer, informing me that since we have begun emailing the blog out, the website hits have dramatically increased. This fact, was followed by a question, “Had I contacted the Diocese to add my blog to the sidebar of their e-newsletter?” Now, Kim was just inquiring if this was the reason the numbers were higher, but I heard this as a push to overcome my fear of contacting the Diocese. When I relayed my fears to Kim, she was gracious and encouraged me that my writing was pretty good and that I should be confident in sharing with others in the Diocese. But, this was not my fear. My fear was people (other priests mostly) saying to themselves, “Who does this guy think he is? Why should we be interested in what he has to say?” And my shame of that fear was so great, that rather than have to try to explain it—I quickly (before I chickened out) emailed Nan Ross at the Diocese and asked her if my blog could be included on the sidebar. Her immediate response was, “Absolutely.” Phew!

 

Now my car is finished, I am driving home and I pick up from where I left off on the TED talk. Brené Brown begins to describe that shame has two big lies. If you can get past one, then there is another just waiting for you. The first is that, “You’re not good enough” (or whatever your “fill in the blank” was). And if you can overcome that, the lie waiting for you is, “Who do you think you are? Look who’s too big for their britches.” This was my lie. I had overcome the first lie (over time) through plenty of positive support and feedback concerning my writing. But, the one always waiting for me was, “Who do you think you are? Who are you to contact the Diocese? Who are you to submit a journal article? Who are you that thinks he could be published?" This was such a gift from God to me. I realized that I had defeated shame!!! Well, at least this time, and with a little push. But, it was true. And while shame will always continue to creep in and seek to wage battle, I am at least more aware of the lies that shame tells. And, I pray that through God and the people who care about me, that I can continue to defeat shame (at least more than it defeats me) and day by day continue to live wholeheartedly. Because, as our entire Gospel message reminds us, “God so loved the world that He sent his only Son, that all who believe in him shall be saved.” That is, God so loved me! God so loved you! We are enough! May shame be vanquished from our lives—that we might live fully into God’s grace and glory.


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