How To Kill Shame

In my last post, Community 101, I talked about what I believe are some of the necessities of healthy community. One of the words I simply threw out there was ‘vulnerability‘. Just like that.

For most of us being told to be vulnerable, we might as well be told to jump out of a an airplane without any gear, and just hope for the best..

Sadly, I know so many of us have opened up and been vulnerable in the past, only to feel as if something in us died or was left seriously wounded through that encounter. 

Still, I believe that instead of retreating from vulnerability, the antidote is actually to embrace it. And yes, that might look like a simple handshake with vulnerability at first.  

Why are we so afraid of being vulnerable? One word: SHAME

This is important to know; Shame is something we all feel, and have to deal with in life.

No one’s exempt from it! 

This is something I’ve realized more and more this past year.

I’ve discovered how I can feel ashamed about this and that; sometimes really small, meaningless issues; other times quite serious issues. Here’s a quite simple one:

I’ve felt ashamed about taking a day off once in a while to fully rest. I’ve felt ashamed about sleeping in on those days. 

Once I understood I was actually feeling shame, I decided to open up to some trusted friends about what I was feeling. You see, once I told them about it, shame couldn’t survive. Together with my friends, we laughed at the lies I had picked up somewhere along the road, and instead replaced them with truth about myself and the situation. 

In this case, the lie was that I had to do something productive and valuable all the time to be worthy of love. And getting enough sleep and rest is not productive and valuable! (..) 

The truth is that what I do or don’t do does not determine whether or not I am worthy of love. The truth is that I am lovable. And I am, like everyone else, created with a need for rest and sleep. 

To clarify, there’s a difference between guilt and shame: 

Guilt: I did something bad.

Shame: I am bad. 

So, I’m not saying I never ever did something bad. And whenever that has happened, feeling guilty about it is not a bad thing. It convicts me and I can clean up my mess, and will also try to avoid doing the same again. 

Shame, however, attacks me as a person. “If I am bad, I am not worthy of love.” 

Shame unspoken keeps us from opening up, because it will show others just how bad we are, and how we cannot be loved. Most of us would rather go on and hide with our shame than risking being found out. The price seems too high. It’s about our worthiness!

The lie is, what you’ve done has made you unworthy of love. Therefore, you can never share this with anyone. You made a mistake and it now defines who you are. You are unlovable. 

The truth is, no matter what you have done, you are worthy of love. Therefore, you don’t have to hide who you are from anyone. You made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean you are one! You are lovable! 

How to kill shame? 

Talk about it. Expose any lies. Declare the truth. 

Be vulnerable. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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