How much space do you rent out to shame in your mind? Like Full Shame. The shaved head, let’s get crazy shame that infects and inflicts pain on your entire body and anyone around you? Stop renting to shame. Evict that sucker and change the locks.
We have understood shame a lot better in recent years, thanks to a better understanding of its impact on our hearts and souls and minds. I’m so grateful for the research and mainstreaming of trauma and shame repercussions, especially for something as public as a TEDtalk. If you haven’t heard or seen the talks on shame by Brene Brown yet, please do yourself a favor and watch/listen in.
Shame is an emotion, not an identity. We wear it like an identity. It morphs into our identity the longer we give into it, feed it, stoke the fires of it, let it overwhelm us. The more you think a thought, without comparing it to other thoughts, without hearing another voice with a contrasting thought, the more that thought becomes a fact – fake news if you will – that permeates and affects all other thoughts. If you let shame have the loudest most continuous voice, you won’t be able to get out from under it and it will consume you, no exceptions.
How do you get out from under it? There’s so much that has been said, and so much I can say personally, about this. But here’s an overview of how I have tunneled out …
Not literally. Well, maybe. Metaphorically speaking it should happen with someone you trust and respect and who trusts and respects you in return. We understand nakedness in a physical sense, but how often can we even stand it in an emotional/spiritual sense? When was the last time you really felt like you told someone everything, nothing held back, all your worst failures and fears and hurts? It feels like crawling through a long, narrow tunnel of sharp tacks and biting creepy crawlies – one of my worst nightmares – but there is an end to the tunnel if you keep pushing. It will feel like the brightest most beautiful space you have ever felt.
Problem is so many of us have made promises physically that we weren’t made to make. Every time we have been naked, physically, with someone who hasn’t made a covenant with us, we’ve symbolically actually put on a new layer, adding to our shame. It’s the way we were made. You can’t get away from that. We all try. We all try to rationalize away what our core, our instincts are telling us, that this isn’t what our naked was made for. Our naked is beautiful. In the wrong context, it is deadly. We’ve gotten naked with the wrong people, looking for the hope of acceptance and pardon from the wrong places. People have failed us, rejected us. The people who are supposed to love you most unconditionally – family, spouse, dearest friends – have been repulsed and turned away when they see something they cannot understand or refuse to engage. We have all felt some level of this kind of rejection and so we continue to cling to our clothing layers, hoping that magically, mystically, the clothing will somehow protect us.
Taking away all the clothing, the kind we have layered on our hearts and minds over the years, showing our true selves, is daunting to say the least. When we finally realize that this clothing – our defense systems, our evasive tactics, our avoidance altogether – is not serving us and doing so very much more harm than good, it feels like dying. Take away our systems, what do we have to protect us? We have nothing. We have that moment when dying is all that makes sense and offers any kind of relief, whatever relief it may or may not be in the end.
I’m saying there is relief. There is another way. It’s located just past being naked. Thing is we’re getting pretty good at being naked. We live in a world now that is increasingly ok in its nakedness. We are largely beginning to revel in it. We are living in a time when the more “raw” you are, the more accepted you are. Just look at the widespread acceptance of tattoos these days, and that’s just a sliver of a wide spectrum of tangible examples of how our culture has changed in our lifetime.
It’s no wonder our ability to hide our shame has also become so much more stealthy. We’ve learned new, intricate ways of hiding from each other, even hiding from ourselves, not to mention our attempts to hide from God. We bury ourselves under piles of clothes – modern psychology, behavioral modifications, just plain ignorance to name a few – and we feel dressed up perfectly and even revel in our outrageous outfits. The more outrageous the better.
So now I’m saying get naked. Now God is saying, Remove the layers. I can see straight through them anyway. It’s important, no imperative, that YOU see through them. And in an aid to your healing – a real, true, deep redemption and restoration of all you were created to be – it’s important to allow others to see you too. In fact, God will use others at the right time, the right place to prove to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is real, that He is working, that He is not leaving you to destroy yourself, that He is making all things new, including you.
There was this moment on the night of our wedding, after promising and pledging and covenanting (is that a verb?) with each other, my husband and I got naked. I’m not trying to make anyone blush (I mean, I may be blushing as I type that) but the image (um, not specifically of us, mind you) is stark and beautiful. A husband and wife, made one by mystical, magical union in Jesus, presented before all of heaven and a small part of earth, harkening back to the Garden of Eden before it all went dark and wrong. This should be a glimpse of the kind of renewing work God is doing in our hearts and souls and minds as we give ourselves to him, naked and unashamed.
Because that’s the next step. Naked and unashamed. That’s how the Creator God intended us to be. That’s how He made us. We clothed ourselves because we became ashamed. We questioned His goodness. we wondered out loud if He was for real for real. We wanted something we had this vague notion was bad for us. Even though He told us straight up that it was indeed bad, we still wanted it. We lusted after it. We got it. And surprise! It was bad. Why was it bad?
Well, that’s the debate right. Because we as a human race spent centuries debating why God, if He was so good, put the dang tree there in the first place. And then why was He testing Adam and Eve? Just another mind game, right? A system of controls. Just do what I say and you’ll be ok. God wants control. And we just outright do not want to be controlled. But, is that even possible??
Do you think that shame does not control you? Something always controls you. You think it’s you. You would like to believe that you are in control. But truth is that at any given time, we are losing control. Losing control of our fears, our sense of truth and identity, our healthy normalizing functions. Our emotions run wild and get the better of us far more often than we even realize. Excuse my french, but emotions need to be your bitch. I mean, that’s what I’m saying. Emotions can run away with your heart and mind like nobody’s business. They will rule you and ruin you.
To be perfectly clear, I am NOT saying you need to be emotion-less. Emotions are warning signs, signals of something going on. Don’t turn off the signals. Like that time I took out the batteries to the smoke/ carbon monoxide detector because it was too bright and then worried all night that I was slowly killing myself with fumes. Emotions can direct you if you learn to recognize the signs. Just don’t let them control you. Again I say, shame is an emotion – NOT an identity. Treat it as such. Learn to find the triggers and disengage them. We who have admitted our need for a savior, who have confessed with our mouths that Jesus is that savior, who have peered into our souls deep under all the clothing layers life has created so far, we have been made free. We are free. I am free. You can be free.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that we get a picture of Jesus and His bride at the end of the Bible in Revelation. I don’t think that the symbolism is too much. I can’t think of a more alluring, overwhelming picture of naked and unashamed in that last day. I can’t think of a better deterrent to wanting to die than the one person who wants you showing up, wanting your life to be joined with his, the one who gave up his life for yours, the one who wants to unite and covenant with you for all of time and space. The one who digs you out from under all the shame – the thoughts that have become facts for you – the outfits you’ve been wearing for far too long. He will undress you layer by layer, and He will give you something new to wear, something more glorious than you have ever known or seen or dreamed. A beautiful promise: “No one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame.”