Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 6

Sometimes I feel shame and I haven’t even done anything wrong. Nothing at all to feel guilty about and I’m over in a corner beating myself up.

My children were raised without shame. Well, as without shame as parents who live with shame can raise children. It’s amazing to see how confident and strong and sure of themselves they are. They don’t sit around second guessing themselves.

Going back to the suit for a second . . . turned out he didn’t even need the full suit for the event last night. Just slacks. We were driving and talking about this and I said something to the effect of, “Ugh! I should have just spent the time making the slacks first and then you would have had them to wear. I’m so sorry.”

The response stopped me flat . . . “How would you have known? We only learned today. Don’t beat yourself up for things that are out of your control. That isn’t productive. If you want to feel bad about something stick to thing that you knew about and had control over.”

He’s right.

Shame is paralysing. It’s defining. It’s the undercurrent of identity that flows no matter how accomplished we are, No matter how much good we are doing. No matter how old we are, or how smart we are, or how rich we are. There isn’t enough to drown out the shame if that’s what you’re mired in. It’s why there are sayings like, “Money can’t buy happiness.” No matter how much you have, if shame is defining you, you won’t be happy. Period.

So how do we get rid of shame? How do we deal with this soul-sucking thing?

We can’t apologise for it. We can’t make amends for it. We can’t silence it by trying to drown it out. So how do we get rid of shame? How do we deal with this soul-sucking thing?

Part of it requires forgiveness. Whether we can identify the person who spoke shame into our lives or not (let’s be honest, it’s likely not a single person) we can choose to forgive them. The reality is they were filled with shame if they were sharing it. We can also forgive ourselves for allowing it in. True, we didn’t know any different – that’s why we forgive ourselves.

Then it requires a conscious and intentional choice to no longer give it power. This is where the hard work comes in.

When that voice inside starts speaking shame, consciously speak over it with truth. If it’s a really loud voice try speaking truth out loud.

Talk to people in your life who are safe and understand how shame works. If you have a group of people who can remind each other when you’re spiralling that it’s not something you need to do, that’s real friendship. I assure you my son’s words to me in the car snapped me right out of my shame spiral. When my children were little and they started to express shame I would say to them the same things I say to adults who start speaking it . . . “That is not truth. You are not (fill in the blank). You are an amazing person who is going to learn from this experience and know to make better choices going forward. (or who is not responsible for how this turned out, or whatever the truth is.)”

The reality is we’re all doing the best we can. Learn from the mistakes. Celebrate the victories. Rejoice with each other over all of the hard work we’re investing to get this life done right.

Eventually, the more you wrestle with your shame and refuse to let it win, the quicker you spot people coming at you with shame. The earlier you see the manipulators and abusers and toxic people who use shame as their primary weapon to control you. It doesn’t matter if their goals are noble or not, if their tool is shame you don’t want them around you. Shut that down fast. Recently I blocked 3 people on facebook within 24 hours who came at me with shame in different discussions. Two were strangers and after engaging to the level that I was willing I simply blocked them. The third person was someone I was facebook friends with but didn’t know in real life and the first time I posted something they didn’t like they called me out with straight-forward shame. I gave them two chances to change their approach and then they was gone. I refuse to give shame a platform in my life anymore.

It’s taken me a long time to get here though. I still have to threaten to block the shame voice in my head on the regular. I can shut down others quicker because I realise that letting them go on just emboldens my own shame voice and it’s hard enough taking it on in it’s weakened state!

It does help when I can encourage others who are wrestling with shame. Not hard to find because most everyone is struggling with this issue. It’s why we all need to be kind to each other, assign a positive intent, and have each other’s backs. We’ve got to stick together. I think it’s one of the reasons we were created to live in community. When we get it right, it’s beautiful.

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