The Overcoming of Shame

Shame, boat loads of shame, day after day, more of the same. ~the Avett Brothers


I am visiting one of my oldest friends and his wife for a few days. She and I are very similar in personality, (which is really not surprising) and I am amazed by her. She has 4 kids, is ex-Navy, a stay at home mom and loves it. She shows me that it’s okay to love your kids and also not be that kind of mom that lives through your kids, that you have needs too, that your needs are also valuable, that this is the way to not only survive, but to thrive in life.

I need people like Jessica in the world, I am privileged to know her.

Yesterday afternoon we had returned from the beach, the two of us and the six kids, everyone was showered and clean and we sat them down to watch the Lego Movie. As we were talking we got on the conversation of living our lives in the open. It’s a common thing we extroverts do. I mean we all have secrets, yes, but the reality of the extrovert is that we process out loud, which means that some of the things “normal” people (read introverts) would keep private, we just kind of put out there.

Then she said something I can’t get out of my head; she said that she had to get over a lot of shame to live that way. Then last night I found out that Robin Williams died. Shame came back to me. Not me, as in my shame, which I have plenty of, but just being reminded of all the same we all carry with us.

I obviously don’t know the intimate details of his life, but we do know depression, addiction, and I dare say, shame, has a lot to do with suicide.

I wrote a sermon about healing and reconciliation not too long ago, you can read the whole sermon here or listen to it here, but here’s the quote that’s pertinent:

The researcher and author Brené Brown has some helpful differentiations in this way, she says: “I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Guilt- psychological discomfort for failing to live up to our values or beliefs.

Shame- feeling unworthy of love and unworthy of connection.

One of these is healthy, one of these is not. I cannot read scripture in any way that does not prove to me over and over again that God believes we are worthy of connection and relationship, I cannot and have never read scripture in a way that says that God believes that we are unworthy of love.

Love and life are far more important than any shame that we may feel for failing to live up to expectations. Love and life are valued by God far more than anything else in this world. When shame overcomes us, we must struggle that demon away, remembering that love and life are valuable, that shame is not the voice of God, God does not shame, for God is love and life.

I believe in the words of Revelation 21, that a new heaven and a new earth will come, that every tear will be wiped, that mourning shall cease. I do not believe this is a cosmic event though, I mean maybe it is, but that’s a whole other blog post. That these “new beginnings” are part of the ebbs and flows of life.

I also believe and hold strongly to the words of Psalm 30- that joy comes in the morning, that God will turn our mourning into dancing.

These things have been true in my own life, and even as I write now I mourn a great loss in mine, I live in the hope of these things. But in order to do that, shame has to be put in its place.

Shame is not the voice of God, love and life are.

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