Holy Asides
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May 11, 2014, 9:46 PM

Books, Confession, Shame, and Life

As Episcopalians we are people of the “book.” We see this in evidence through the focus on readings from the Bible, the scriptures of the Old and New Testament during the services, as well as through the Book of Common Prayer, where we find the richness of our prayers and liturgy. And while these are the primary books of our worship, there are a great number of books and authors who lead, guide and direct our thought, theology, and practical life in Christ. Therefore, in this blog-space I thought that I would share some of those books that have shaped me over the years. At first thought, this was an amazing and brilliant idea, but then I have looked and see that I have already referenced, Steve Macchia’s Crafting a Rule of Life and Christopher Beeley’s, Leading God’s People in previous blogs. So, I guess that was a subconscious thought, but I guess will now be more intentional.


This leads me to Brené Brown’s books about shame resilience and vulnerability. Both her books and TED talks (which are great little 22 minute videos) are on her website. And while over the next several months (maybe years), I will probably hint at her works and research, there is one aspect that is important for us to highlight in the Church—that is the issue of Confession. The confessing of our sins in order to receive God’s forgiveness has long been a core aspect of our theology. But the importance of confession goes well beyond receiving absolution—it relieves us of shame. Shame is not guilt. Guilt is the sorrow for our sins; we regret that we have acted outside of our moral code. Shame, on the other hand, focuses on our failure as a person. Instead of “I did a bad thing”, it’s “I am a bad person.” This person struggles to believe that God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and healing is available to them. 


This is why confession is so vital. Brown writes, “Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing that we can do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” This does not mean that we need always to come to a priest, but it does mean that we go to someone. Someone we can trust, who loves us, and cares for us. A friend, spouse, parent—someone who can say, “That’s awful, I am so sorry—but it will be OK.” This is risky; this is daring; this is HARD; but, ultimately, living with the shame of our secrets is so much harder. We are the loved and cherished children of the living God. This is who we are; this is the reality we should live into.

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