I am lucky because I have the kind of faith that assures me that God is revealing truth to me (and you) all day, every day. The revelations are not very dramatic, although if you stop and think about it, that the sun rises each morning is pretty amazing. No, I don’t need to be a super-sleuth. There are signs all around me. This is not to say, of course, that I believe all that is revealed, but I am trying.
One such sign I did pay attention to recently, as it came to me three separate ways, was the work of Brene Brown, a professor of social work at the University of Houston. By the third time that I was introduced to her I decided to read some of her work. I chose a book entitled, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” Bells went off in my head and I immediately began to take it in.
The book is based on research she did on shame and its effects on women. The gist of her theory is that our relentless pursuit of the perfect… body, career, children, marriage–whole life– leads us to feeling judged by others and ashamed when we inevitably cannot attain these goals. Once in a state of shame, we are paralyzed, disconnect ourselves from others and naturally are miserable. She writes that, “Shame corrodes our belief that we can change.” I would add that shame corrodes our belief that Divine power can change us. She then develops strategies for what she calls “shame resilience.” Recognition, self-acceptance and compassion, along with connecting with others and developing empathy are among her suggestions.
I know that this isn’t rocket-science and I have certainly read these ideas in different shape before but somehow, at this place and time in my life, I allowed the truth to sink in. Brown’s ideas have helped me understand what has been going on throughout my life and specifically the last four years. I cannot tell you how her insights help me demystify and ultimately weaken the power shame has over me. It was as if I someone shined a light in the shadows, my shadows. Lucky as I am to believe that there are no coincidences in my life, I know it was Divine Light that shone and continues to shine.
And this is the greater joy…the Easter joy of it all: You and I are liberated from our shame, if we accept the truth. The God that conquered death can certainly conquer shame and transform it into “I Am Enough.” That I can most certainly believe!
Below is a poem that Brown included in her book. Its honesty took my breath away and inspired me to write a few of my own lines.
This is the shame of the woman whose hand hides
her smile because her teeth are bad, not the grand
self-hate that leads some to razors or pills
or swan dives off beautiful bridges however
tragic that is. This is the shame of being yourself,
of being ashamed of where you live and what
your father’s paycheck lets you eat and wear.
This is the shame of the fat and the old,
the unbearable blush of acne, the shame of having
no lunch money and pretending you’re not hungry.
This is the shame of concealed sickness—diseases
too expensive to afford that offer only their cold
one-way tickets out. This is the shame of being ashamed,
the self-disgust of the cheap wine-drunk, the lassitude
that makes junk accumulate, the shame that tells
you there is another way to live but you are
too dumb to find it. This is the real shame, the damned
shame, the crying shame, the shame that’s criminal,
the shame of knowing words like ‘glory’ are not
in your vocabulary though they litter the Bibles
you’re still paying for. This is the shame of not
knowing how to read and pretending you do. This is
the shame that makes you afraid to leave your house,
the shame of food stamps at the supermarket when
the clerk shows impatience when you fumble with the change.
This is the shame of dirty underwear, the shame
of pretending your father works in an office
as God intended all men to do. This is the shame
of asking friends to let you off in front of the one
nice house in the neighborhood and waiting
in shadows until they drive away before walking
to the gloom of your house. This is the shame
at the end of the mania for owning things, the shame
of no heat in winter, the shame of eating cat food,
the unholy shame of dreaming of a new house and car
and the shame of knowing how cheap such dreams are.
Mine is the shame of losing muscle tone and getting old,
The shame of not being young and adorable anymore,
The shame of being almost fifty years old and having little to show,
The shame of having gone to a fancy school and be unemployed,
The shame of not owning a home, of living beyond your means no matter how
Much comes in, the shame of thinking things will fill the void, the shame of
Worrying and wanting when so many have so little,
The shame of not ever speaking to the brother you were so close to as a kid,
of having a son with mental illness and a daughter who is regarded as eccentric and odd,
of having your husband neglect you, the shame of knowing he doesn’t love you the way he should,
The unholy shame of not being able to fix yourself, much less save yourself,
And the shame of being unable to let go.