Categories Going Out On a Limb-Posted on

Shame Longs to Be Seen

Wonderful, wondrous spring!  Chilly breeze, but glorious sun and pastel blue sky with soft gentle white puffy clouds moving about. The buds are coming out on my Service Berry trees in the front yard and some tulips are showing their colourful faces both in the front and back gardens. I don’t remember seeing so many robins. They multiplied exponentially during the surprisingly mild winter months.

When I was a kid walking down Filer Street in my little home town on Lake Michigan, headed for school or the home of my best friend Hannah Bach, who came from Denmark and knew no English; for each dear robin I saw in the spring time I would lick my thumb, press it against my palm and stamp it with my fist. Then I could make a wish. As a child magic was my friend.  I could make a whole lot of wishes with the robins I saw on my walk in the cemetery  this morning with Aimee, the cutest 11 and a half-year old puppy on the planet.

On those same trips down the street to get an ice cream cone from my father’s dairy or pick up something for my mother at the pharmacy, I would gather Lucky Strikes cigarette cellophane I found littering yards or smashed against the curb: make a wish, rip the cellophane in four pieces and throw it in the air. One time a man working in his garden saw me do that and berated me for cluttering his yard. He was so right. AND I was a kid who went to huge shame and persevered about that moment for years. Poor kid! Shame is a hard cloak to wear.

In her book Chronic Shame, Patricia DeYoung says shame needs to be brought into the light. She says.”When clients finally speak of the pain and destruction that shame wrecks in their lives, they often ask, ‘Can anything make this better?’ I often respond, ‘Shame needs light and air.'”

Exposing our shame seems dangerous. Yet intuitively, I think we long to be seen.  I think we quietly wish someone would think well of us even though we did something thoughtless or didn’t do anything at all but someone wanted to take their feelings out on us and caused us to be ashamed for their behavior.

The yard man of my youth could have smiled, said something about my playing a game and suggested we both pick up the messy white flecks. For sure I never played that game again and to this day I am exquisitely careful about leaving litter about.

Think about what comes out of your mouth. Be mindful of the words you pick. It is just fine to have a different view of something, different then others have about the same event. Both are credible. Intentionally chose to kindly share your difference. Living with shame is like living in eternal darkness, like wanting to hide, like wishing you could be swept off the planet and start all over again somewhere else.

Shame can be so destructive that we wish we had never been born or we hope no one ever really sees us. We think we carry the plague or are bad luck for others, sometimes it feels like we live in a smelly haze or cause chaos wherever we may wander. Shame can make us wish we could die.

No one should be allowed to have the power to cause others to feel so badly about themselves that they want to die. Try to be brave enough to find a safe place to let your shame peak out. Just a tiny bit of sunlight can begin to lighten the burden of shame. Ultimately we are all precious and sacred. If we have done or said things we regret, we have not been bad. We may have made a mistake. But we are capable of learning and can chose to not make that mistake again. And—we can hold our head up high and walk with ease, leaving shame behind. It takes courage, and it takes having at least one someone who can see our heart and soul and treat us with gentleness.

We can recover from the horror of living and walking in shame. As Pat DeYoung says it takes sun and air. I would like to add it helps a lot to also have love and kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *