Do you remember when you first experienced the feeling of Shame? I’m not talking about guilt. I’m not talking about feeling embarrassed. I’m talking about the deep, gut wrenching feeling of self-loathing. That emotion that screams to your soul that you are broken and that you are bad and that you are fundamentally not good enough.
I’ve been reading the book Scary Close by Donald Miller. I’m learning a lot about shame from Miller’s work. I’m realizing that I still have some unfinished business around the role of shame in my story – both past and present. I’ve been reminded how destructive shame is for relationships. Nothing destroys intimacy like shame. Shame is intimacy’s kryptonite. When your shame stands tall, your relationships will likely fall short.
Every one of us is born without shame. You don’t see babies cower in the dark shadows of their nursery obsessing over whether or not mommy and daddy will accept them when they find out they’ve soiled their diaper for the umpteenth time that day. We are born with a happy, healthy little self. We are born to connect.
Somewhere along the way, we have a moment – or a series of moments – that causes us to deeply question our value and worth. Maybe it’s a failure at school. It might be a moment of conflict with our parents or peers. It could be a moment of public humiliation. Regardless of the circumstances, the result is that shame enters our story. From that moment forward, everything is different. A rupture takes place and the immediate reflex of our soul is to cover ourselves. We hide our flaw. We long to prove to the world that we are not defective. We are worthy of love and acceptance.
The way we cover our shame is that we develop keenly crafted disguises. We perform. We find out what makes other people like us and we make a focused effort on excelling at it. We cover our shame with and act. A sham. For Donald Miller the sham was intelligence and humor. For me the sham has been a polished Christian exterior – a cloak of righteousness. The sad result is that the sham – designed to make us more acceptable to others seals us off from actually being able to receive their love and acceptance. The sham becomes an invisible wall that separates you from everyone you love and everyone who loves you.
And see what I will find
I find I
Made up my mind
To be the man that everybody loves
So I become someone I’m not
I want to be something more
Then a man who needs to be adored
What about you? Is your shame still standing tall? When did shame enter your story? What is the name of your sham? Have you ever thought about it before? If you’ve found yourself struggling with relationships and intimacy, maybe it’s time to dig into your story a little more and find out where it all started. Christian Counseling is a great place to start that process.
I’d love to hear form you if you are interested in naming and executing your sham!
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