You’ve felt it. Perhaps you don’t want to admit it, but it happened. The moment is a memory you cannot forget. And it’s a moment you never want to relive. It’s like an old, rotten coat that someone put on you. It smelled bad. It looked bad. You hated the coat – more than anyone else. Some saw it and looked away ignoring you. Others got up in your face and with self-righteous breath, they told you how ugly the coat was.
Perhaps you’ve read the story about the young lady who was awakened at sunrise one morning by a mob of angry men. They dragged her like an animal through the streets of the city half-naked and took her right to the Temple. They pushed through the crowd of listeners creating quite a stir on this otherwise peaceful morning.
“They made her stand before the group.”
Then, right there in front of the spectators, they called her worthless. She didn’t deserve to live. They should stone her. She felt hot tears streaming down her face scared to death of what would happen next. It’s one thing to be talked about. It’s another thing to be on public display.
What is it? It’s shame. It means that you are don’t measure up, that you are not enough. It’s as old as time. In fact, Adam and Eve felt it. Remember the question that GOD asked them after they ate from the forbidden tree: “Who told you that you were naked?” They had always been naked and now, all of a sudden, they were ashamed of it. Who whispered in their ears that something was wrong with this now? That they should feel shame? That they should hide from each other? From GOD? Who told you – and me – that we were naked? That we should be ashamed?
Do you remember now? The moment when you wet your pants at school or getting off the bus every day at that rotting trailer at the end of the street or your schoolmates ribbing each other when they saw your disabled father or using your Food Stamp card or the cops in your driveway. Yeah, that moment when you felt less, when you didn’t measure up. It was shame.
“Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. ‘I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong.”
-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Shame is as much a part of the human experience as breathing. It’s something we must confront each day. We must fight shame for ourselves and for others. None of us measure up and are worthy, which means that all of us are in the same boat. We all fail somewhere along the way.
What do we do with our shame? Frequently, we use it to shame others. Criticizing people is an expression of our own shamefulness. It’s shame calling out shame and we don’t even see it. Or we hide and try to cover our flaws. As long as we can mask the truth of our failures, we think everything is OK. After all, who is as bad off as I am?
But there’s a better way. It’s powerful and healing. It comes with the rest of the story.