July 28, 2013 In Faith
Affirmation: I release myself from shame.
“Shame on you!” This phrase can sometimes be accompanied by an accuser wagging his or her index finger at you while they are saying it. “Shame on you!” Does anyone use that phrase anymore? I hope not but whether it’s said or not, many people carry around a deep sense of shame even if they don’t understand its meaning. My study group is in the process of reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and one of her main topics is shame.
Is shame different than guilt? Can it possibly be a useful emotion, one that might help someone become healthier and more productive? Could it possibly help someone at least become kind and compassionate? No, I don’t believe it helps
in anyway. In fact when I Googled it one of the phrases used to describe shame was an “unhealthy emotion.” I think when someone is pointing their finger at you and saying, “Shame on you.” It’s no different than them cursing you and telling you to, “Go to Hell!” There is no redeeming value in their condemnation. They are condemning you as a person; they are not condemning your behavior and that’s where the difference comes in between shame and guilt.
Shame is when you feel like you are unworthy because you believe there is something inherently wrong with you; you are a bad person. Guilt is when your behavior is faulty and because of it, because of your humanity, you’ve made a mistake, you’ve done something wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have to be someone other than ourselves pointing that finger. Many of us are very adept at saying, “Shame on me!” That too is not doing anything to help you create a better life. One needs to fully comprehend the difference between believing they are inherently evil and that they have done an evil thing and can make amends and go onto change their behavior.
I believe many people suffer from shame because of what they were told as a child by some authority figure, either a parent, teacher or some other misguided authority figure or even worse, something that was done to them as a child. Those who make it to adulthood and don’t suffer from the malady of shame are either completely skewed or had some wonderful people in their lives who with their affirmations diffused those who attempted to harm them.They gave them the gift of discernment. I’ve had many people tell me their religion made them feel worthless and shameful. I can see how that might happen but at some point don’t you think you have to shuck off that mantle and decide what empowers you and what is hurting you, instead of blaming it on something in your past? How is that done?
That’s why I started this site. To give people the opportunity to think about their beliefs and whether or not those beliefs are enhancing their lives or diminishing their lives. When discussing this specific topic with a friend she told me SHAME was an acronym for “should have already mastered everything.” I don’t think she was talking about our hobbies, although I believe how we approach our hobbies is a reflection of how we feel about the more important aspects of our lives, like our faith and our relationships. Perfection is the birthplace of shame. We may have a belief system that has led us to a point where we expect so very much from ourselves. There seems to be a fine line between expecting to do something perfectly and setting the bar so low that we never excel at anything. If you follow this blog, you know that I have recently raised the bar on both my golf game and my fiddle playing. There’s no way to keep score for fiddle improvement so since I’ve been practicing almost daily, I’ll give myself credit for improving. Golf, however, is very different. Each swing no matter how big or small, near or far counts equally. Gauging my improvement or lack thereof is very easy.
Soon after writing the Never Give Up blog, but after some additional practice and a lesson I headed out to play with “the big girls.” What a lesson in life for me. I was abysmal! Notice the phrase carefully. I didn’t write, “My game was abysmal.” I fully felt like there was something inherently wrong with me. When describing my experience to a dear friend and life-long golfer I was hoping for some great insight to dispel how embarrassed and actually ashamed I was by my performance. In retrospect I am so grateful to have had this experience. It was non-threatening, even trivial in some way but because I’ve been studying Daring Greatly, it gave me a great opportunity to see how I can point that finger of shame at myself and suffer that unhealthy emotion.
My friend and her husband said all the right things. There they are, the people we all need in our lives to lift us up and affirm our personhood. I wasn’t being silly. “It was easy to beat ourselves up over our performances.” They had had exactly the same experiences. With their encouragement and a few more lessons from my coach and number one fan, my husband, Sandy, I took the lessons of golf and life that I had just learned and headed out to play once again. I headed out with a whole new attitude. I would do my very best and no matter what, I would have fun. I would enjoy my time. I would not beat myself up. I felt differently heading out and I think that alone helped me play better. A life lesson for me. Do my best and choose to enjoy whatever I’m involved with. And, when I’m shamed either by myself or another, take it to those who love me and let them help lift me back up to a place of light and joy.
Shame is a disease of the spirit, not the mind. This is probably why religion has been so successful at using shame as a tool to control their flocks. We don’t really need to be reminded of our sinful nature, most of us are very aware of our imperfections. What we really need is encouragement and healing. That too is available through most faiths. Unfortunately, we must sift through the fire and brimstone to find it but it is there. That’s where the healing is too. It’s in the attention to spirit. In fact, I firmly believe once we ask for healing, the Universe will gather all its forces to begin the process and will come to us in ways in which we never even dreamed.
I am a great believer in the Holy Spirit. Oh I am sure there are many many names given the Holy Spirit by all those that believe there is a power greater than anything of which we have an inkling. Give it any name you like. It’s that life force that penetrates the very core of every living thing. It’s available to all of us but most of us are simply too busy or too thick to notice it. When we sit in silence and invite Divine Energy into our lives and our beings, miracles occur, healing occurs. This is the antidote to shame. We invite God into every cell of our beings. We are part of the Divine. It is our birthright to share in the holiness and glory of God. Once we acknowledge our connection and our heritage to God’s Divine gifts, healing begins.