Secrets…I personally have developed a negative association with the word. Think about it for a moment, have you ever heard a family secret that brought joy to someone’s heart? In hearing stories of abuse, abusers have used the word secret while grooming a child. Their “secret” start off as slipping the kid candy after the parent says no to the secret being the inappropriate touch or act that follows. Consequently, this secret turns in to shame for those involved. True enough, we all carry things that are close to us, personal things that we don’t share. But, how do we draw the line between a healthy sharing boundary and being caught prisoner of our own story because of shame?
Dictionary.com defines shame as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another”. An accepted definition in the therapeutic world is the feeling of “I am bad” versus guilt, “I did a bad thing.” At some point in life, we may experience some level of shame, and that’s okay. The goal is to work through that shame feeling, not staying there in the pain.
What is the MOST important to know is that SHAME THRIVES (increases, blossoms, grow, develop) IN ISOLATION AND SECRECY! To put it another way, the more you allow your embarrassment to keep to quiet about Jacob’s daddy not being Mark like you thought, the more your shame will grow, and BOOM before you know it, you have a whole family secret! This is not to make like of any situation. The fact is that this happens every day. Shame, in isolation, grows like bacteria in a petri dish. Working through feelings of shame is painful, but in order to start working on it, you have to tell your story.
May I propose that shame has the potential to keep you a victim of your situation. Remember, shame is “I am a bad person”. Deep painful negative feelings of self can lead you to feel that not only are you a “bad person” but you also are not worthy of love. How does this cause you to be a victim? If you are looking at life through the lens of “I am bad” and “I am not worthy” you will forever see situations and circumstances as things that are happening TO you instead of seeing them as situations you can work through and conquer. The mentality of victimization will never allow you to accept responsibility for your actions nor will this mentality allow you to see where you can take control of your life.
Yes, there are times that things truly happen TO us in life, but the more we are silent about them the more we allow shame to grow. I AM NOT SUGGESTING that update your status with all of your dirty laundry. I am, however, suggesting that you start a conversation with a trusted loved one or counselor.
Matthew 7:3-5 states, “3)And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4) How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5) Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Listen saints, WE HAVE TO STOP HURTING PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH! It hurts my heart when I hear of how people have gone to the church to talk about the pain in their life or their hurtful experiences only to leave feeling judged. If we look at the ministry of Jesus, Jesus LOVED to talk to those that were considered unworthy, from the children to the woman in Samaria (who had some experience with shame). No one is perfect and we all have things we need to work through, whether it’s being perpetually late to work or coping with the trauma of a rape at 17. WE ALL HAVE “STUFF” (logs in our eye). If you do not feel that you can listen to someone’s story in a loving empathic manner, REFER THEM TO A COUNSELOR! Please, let’s not be the reason people stay in silence, that would be a shame!
From my heart,
P.S. Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash. As always, the biblical text if from the New Living Translation.