Posted August 8, 2014 by Marg Herder
Five letters, spelling pain and confusion.
Shame emerges into the light of day disguised as silence and starvation. Shame tumbles down our throats, numbing our minds, obliterating our knowledge of our selves and our souls. Shame rages through our lives, leaving our gentle bodies bruised and torn.
Shame sneaks up on us— we are often deeply engaged before we realize what is happening. To seek the source of our shame is unimaginable, impossible. It’s so much easier to believe we’re hurt, angry, overwhelmed.
When shame emerges, shame owns our movements, our emotions, our thoughts. Shame is a powerful force that comes out of nowhere, unnoticed, unacknowledged, and lays us flat every time.
Five letters that have hijacked my life.
I’ve only recently become aware of shame’s omnipotence. I’ve paid thousands of dollars for the privilege of exploring it with professionals. I’ve spent hours and hours in 12-Step meetings, gleaning what I can from others engaged in the same inquiry. I’ve read books, written a hundred thousand words, filled out lists and questionnaires, and talked for days with those who love me. And, the whole time, it’s felt like exploring water by drowning in it.
There have been a few days I felt like surrendering to it and proving to all of you how unworthy of this life I really am. There have been other days I fought like hell to regain my sense of worth. There have been days I could do nothing but sleep, and other days I awoke and tracked shame’s path through my life like a bloodhound.
And I still don’t even know what shame is. I still don’t know if shame is an opponent, if it is something I might eventually learn to subdue, or if it is an illusion and someday I’ll pull back the curtain and expose it for nothing more than a complicated misunderstanding. My suspicion is that shame might simply be a companion, one I’ll have to learn to tolerate and tune out. But I don’t know. And I’m not too sure anyone else knows this, either. As many times as I’ve listened intently, as many times as I’ve asked, I haven’t heard anyone really say what shame is.
Five letters that root and bloom where Divinity is not.
Shame does everything it can to crowd Her out. Shame tries to fill up all the space in my heart and mind. Shame finds God’s resting place and throws an obnoxious party. Shame looks for stillness and fills it with trembling and all the wrong words. Shame knows, I think, that surrender to the sacred is best thwarted by addictions and by believing the lie that there is urgency to the mundane.
So, in an effort to open more space for the Holy in my life, I’ve been trying to stop my addictive actions, and I’ve been doing what I can to slow down. Basically, I’ve been trying to do what feels real and important before doing what feels compelling and urgent.
I’ve gotten into the habit of walking around late at night. I like it because I don’t pass anyone on the street. I like it because I can talk to myself, to Her, and no one stares, no one cares. I like it because there are stars and planets and the translucent darkness between them. I like it because I get to watch the moon move through all her phases, and it’s like watching my loved ones move through their lives. I like it because I am aware of Her walking with me. I like it because, sometimes, when shame steals upon me out there, God feels so close, She feels so strong, that shame can find no place to settle into me.
Where She is, it seems, shame cannot be.
And, not surprisingly, this is a basic tenant of recovery. That only through availing myself of God’s grace can I, Her precious creation, be restored to wholeness, to sanity, to a life no longer hijacked by shame.
Five letters that maybe, just maybe, can’t exist where She is.