Shame

Daniel Park (Creative Commons)

 

I recently heard of a woman who was ashamed of something in her life. None of her friends or acquaintances knew the shame she carried. Everything on the outside of her life looked as if it were just fine. On the inside, though, she carried a secret that she was ashamed of. She feared that if anyone knew this hidden truth, they would cease to like her, cease to be kind to her, or maybe even cease to love her.

When we hold secrets like that, we accidentally and unintentionally create shame. Hiding secrets deep in some hidden, dark place within ourselves means that shame then covers our whole life. When we are able to finally say out loud – to some safe person – whatever it is we’ve been keeping in the dark, and hear it said out loud, we slowly begin to release the shame. The truth sets us free.

This woman’s shame had to do with the fact that while she enjoyed a life which included great luxury, security, accommodation, comfort and a bit of notoriety … her parents were homeless. She wasn’t entirely sure of the circumstances which resulted in her parent’s homelessness. She did know that the many times she asked her parents to move in with her, they had simply refused. Her parent’s living situation robbed this woman of joy; she couldn’t be entirely happy if the people she loved were miserable.

While this woman truly tried to help her parents, she also told no one in her life about the predicament she was carrying. One day when she was going out with friends, she was getting into a taxi and happened to notice a woman behind a restaurant digging in the trash to find something to eat. The dumpster-diving woman was her mother. She quickly hurried her friends into the taxi for fear her mother might call out to her and her friends would discover her secret.

It was a tough situation to be sure; but that’s much of life, right? We all have things we wish weren’t true in our lives, or things we don’t know exactly how to tell others about — things we bury deep or keep in the dark. And, that fact – the fact that we all have reasons to keep something hidden – that truth means we really have nothing to fear, because we are not alone. The truth is we ALL have stuff in our lives …some of it with a capital “S!” Life is messy. Not life can be messy. Life IS messy.

Finally one day this woman got the courage to locate her parents. In a sacred truthful conversation, they discussed what had happened and if there was anything which could be done to help. Nothing happened immediately. It took time for things to heal and settle down and shake out; but in time things did get better. Eventually this big-city girl discovered she didn’t have to live in the big city. She and her husband decided to move to a rural part of Virginia where she got a couple dogs and a few horses and planted a garden. Eventually, her mother moved in with her and her husband and children. (I’m not sure what became of her father; maybe someday I’ll find out.)

Shame isolates us. Shame keeps us in a dark lonely place, because we’re truly afraid that if others know the truth about us we’ll be judged not worthy. Sharing the truth about who we are requires Herculean courage. It takes courage to make ourselves vulnerable enough to tell at least one safe person the truth we are so afraid to share.

By sharing whatever we are keeping in the dark, we slowly begin to discover that we continue to belong and be loved. Abandonment doesn’t occur. Shunning doesn’t occur. Instead we are met with compassion. What we find on the other side of risk is connection – connection to another person who has some stuff going on in their lives too. The fact that you open up often gives another person permission to open up, and a solid connection can be created. We need those connections to help us through this life. We weren’t meant to journey alone. But all of this begins with courage – the courage to risk being vulnerable in order to be seen and heard. And we all so desperately need to be seen and heard, and to know that we matter.

So what is it you’re ashamed of in your life; what shame keeps you imprisoned? Is it debt? Obesity? Addiction of some sort? Being medicated for some reason you are afraid to tell others about?

In truth, people who love us really do want us to be free from whatever binds us. There’s no way we can control the way others will react to whatever might be true, real and secret in our lives -but we can control what we do with secrets. Some friends might go silent for a while, some might scream, still others might shun us, but in the end we will be free. I urge you – and me – to do what my therapist friend counsels her clients- to tell the truth and to tell it quicker! We’ll be so happy – and relieved – we did.

I hope you know you are in my prayers. That you are not alone and that you matter. I’m praying for you. Please keep me in your prayers as well.

Peace friends,

Chuck

 

 

1 Comment

  • Rose says:

    This is so true. This happened in my life before I was married. Something t was afraid to tell my husband to be. Yet when I finally did I discovered that it was really not a big deal to him. I wondered why I had fretted over this. It made me realize how lucky I was to find this incredible man to share my life with.

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