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Shame On You

Have you ever had those words spoken your way?  Or have you ever said them to another?  Or thought “shame on them” about someone else and their behavior or situation?

The word shame wasn’t really part of my vernacular until I signed up to take a course by Brene Brown  facilitated by life coach and friend, Jenn Peppers of Verge Coaching.  I’ll be doing this through mid-March and will share some of my own journey here, as I dissect it.   The course is called “Connections” but the topic is about shame, that we all have it, and how to move from being stunted, defined, or overcome by it, to a place of shame resilience.  Basically the things or events in our lives which evoke emotions of shame are not things which define us.  And for the record, there is a difference between shame and guilt, as well as embarrassment and humiliation, which I’ll share another time.

My earliest memory of shame was when I was maybe 4 or 5.  I was at my grandparent’s house and had been playing in the backyard with the little boy who lived behind them.  I had to go potty so we ran into the house for a break and I sat down to tinkle.  My grandparents bathroom was luxurious in my memory…flamingo pink tile offset with maroon accent tiles.  Pink furry carpet.  Mirrors over the chrome legged pink sinks and secret trap doors in the walls next to each sink where, when you pushed in one side, it would spin around to reveal a cup and toothbrush holder.  I used to watch my grandpa in his white tank top and towel tied around his waist, swirl his fancy shaving brush in the cream and artfully scrape through the foam and whiskers, revealing his handsome face.  And if that wasn’t amazing enough, my grandma had a shell collection rivaled by few, part of which was beautifully out on display to enjoy while passing the time.  Well, as I said, the boy, whose name I do not remember, and I ran into the house while I went potty.  And he waited patiently, cluelessly…opposite me a good 4 feet, on the edge of the tub.  And my grandma walked in, FREAKED, and boom, we were busted.  (Wow, as I type this, maybe this is why I never went to the bathroom at elementary school after we moved cross-country…but that’s another story.)  In my grandma’s adult mind, what we were doing was wrong and sexual.  In my little kid mind, I didn’t know why I was being shamed, told I was naughty, or what we had done wrong.  We weren’t even playing “Dr.” I was simply going tinkle and friend-boy was as clueless as other boys, sitting on the edge of the flamingo pink tub.  Yet here I am, 38 years later telling this story, and I can still picture it, though now without shame.  I know my mom had me apologize to my grandma.  I followed up my apology with an, “I love you.”  To which she replied something near the sentiment of, “We don’t use those words lightly around here.”  Because, as a preschooler, I knew what throwing love around loosely looked like, ya know…today, however, I tell everyone I know I love them, because one, I do, and two, God does, and three, life is short and what if those are the last three words they hear from me?  Another post for another day…

This is a pretty decent match to my grandparent's retro 1950's pink bathroom.
This is a pretty decent match to my grandparent’s retro 1950’s pink bathroom. Photo: RetroRenovation

Dr. Brene Brown defines shame as this: “The intensely painful feeling (emotion) or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”  She says we all have it to varying degrees, but some have learned shame resilience, in other words, kind of a “tough shell” but really the ability to recognize, understand it, and to not mask it, but speak about shame, so as not to give it power over us.

Looking back at my tinkle story, I don’t have ill feelings toward my grandma as I know we did nothing wrong or sinful.  I don’t pee in front of my husband, however, but that’s out of respect for both of us.  I do wonder what may have happened in my grandma’s life to have caused her to react in such a way to a truly generic situation.  I learned how I WON’T react when I walk in on my kid and the neighbor one day…

I know I have shame, and I can also see how over the years I’ve developed a healthy resilience to it in some areas.  From reading Brown’s book and having open discussions in our group, I can also see some areas where I’m not so resilient and need to extend myself the Grace which is extended to me from a loving Heavenly Father.  I shame myself a lot, and according to her definition, I do have a hang-up about worthiness and belonging….something I’ll have to dissect here more.

One truth from the course is: “As we recognize shame and verbalize it, it loses its power over us.”  In my words, there is no such thing as a secret if there truly is a God.  And since He is loving, if a “shameful secret” has kept us hiding, held back from how we were designed, He will lovingly bring it into the light so we are able to see His truth about us.

If you carry shame for anything in your life, I encourage you to follow these posts and step out onto the road of shame resilience with me!

6 thoughts on “Shame On You

    1. Thanks, friend! I agree, Elizabeth! There’s one thing to feel guilt or conviction over something we’ve done, genuinely apologize and ask for forgiveness, and then move on. It’s another thing to continue to carry that thing around, as it we aren’t worthy of being forgiven. It’s a lie and unnecessary burden.

  1. This is fantastic. I have been battling this very thing lately, my worthiness before God and truly believing in the forgiveness He offers. But shame seems to be the nasty factor keeping me from accepting it. So thank you for posting. Please keep ’em coming!

  2. I saw my shame resilience in action the other day. I was at Truluck’s and asked a guest what he would like to drink. The conversation went like this:
    Guest: Lemonade
    Me: Certainly
    Guest: Is your lemonade fresh squeezed or from a fountain?
    Me: It’s from the fountain.
    Guest: Really? You should feel HUMILIATED by that.
    Me: (short pause from shock) Actually, I refuse to feel humiliated by that.
    Guest: ….
    This guy proved himself to be a bully, probably with a very poor self-image. But I just kept thinking, “why would someone else want me to feel humiliated?” What an odd thing. And Brene’s core message surged through me and I was so glad to know that I am shame-resilient. I see it in Jackson, too, in spite of my sinful parenting. What a gift!
    My sister took Jackson and Adreyene to get donuts one morning after he had spent the night. I found out 2 days later that she had told him to take his hat off at the donut shop and he thought she was just kidding, so he laughed and said “no”. She proceeded to demand that he take his hat off because they were in a restaurant and he refused (in part because he’s embarrassed by hat-head and also because he didn’t see any need to take his hat off). She wouldn’t let up, nor would she talk to him like a human being, so he went to the bathroom and stayed there until she came to get him when it was time to go. He forewent his donuts in order to avoid shame. And he cried to me in the car when I heard about this that the only reason she spoke to him that way was because he’s young, and that’s “not right”. He’s right, she never would have demanded that an adult remove his hat. We have got to be more mindful of how we speak to others: kids, peers, elders, everyone!

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