The Deadly Game of Shame

randomlychad  —  April 22, 2013 — 19 Comments

It’s not bad to feel ashamed when we’ve done shameful things. There is such a thing as a healthy regret. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.

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This post is not about that kind of shame. But rather about the shame that we, the culture, and church project. The kind that makes us worry more about our reputations, than about getting the help we need.

That kind of shame hides. And hidden shame is the devil’s playground.

It’s the shame we feel when we’re told we need to pray more, prayer harder, have more faith. It’s the shame that comes when someone tells us we’re “too blessed to be depressed.”

As if…

Elijah was depressed. God didn’t castigate him, but rather fed, and and ministered to, him. Christ himself was so anxious about his life in the garden of Gethsemane that he sweated great drops of blood.

Would you tell him he didn’t have enough faith?

I don’t think so.

So why do we do it to our dear brothers and sisters? Why do we do it so much that dear Christian people are forced to hide?

This ought not to be. People shouldn’t feel ashamed to reach out for the help they need. Yet all too often there is the sound of the church doors being shut and bolted.

“We’ll be praying for you,” comes the voice from the other side of the door. “Need a few meals? Okay, we’ve got that, too. Now move along… we want to sing our happy song.”

But I thought the church was a hospital for the hurting, the wounded, those in need of help? If so why does she so often stigmatize those hurting in ways she can’t understand?

“Oh, we can’t get too close to you, you know. You must have sin in your life.” Yet our Lord Jesus Christ was a friend of sinners, who reached out to touch the lepers.

We’re all to willing to rejoice with those that rejoice, but when it comes time to weep we high tail it out of there…

As if depression, anxiety, or other hidden ailments, were catching. The message implicit in such behavior, quite contrary to the Gospel, is you’re not worth it. You don’t count. We can’t help you.

So we’re not gonna try. But we’ll sure be praying. Let us know when you’re better.

“So sad. Did you hear? So-and-so died. I heard it was suicide. Can you believe it?”

That, friends, is the deadly game of shame.

And it ought not to be.

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randomlychad

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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • About 2 years ago, my Dad started going to church again. The last time he was in a community was when my mom died. He was told (basically) “If you had had more faith, Christy wouldn’t have died.” I don’t blame him for staying away for 28 years.

    When I tell people about my Bi-polar condition, many times I am greeted with something along te lines, “I was bipolar once. God really healed me from that” or “God is bigger than our feelings. Just focus on him, on his peace, and put those other thoughts down.” or (when I tell them about my medication) “Well, Jesus is all we need. He can heal you.” This is both insulting to me (and my doctors and therapists who have diagnosed me with an objective medical condition), and dismissive of what it means for me to be a Christian, a believer.

    Look, I don’t say things like this often because I don’t and to be a prideful dick, but the fact is I know theology and the bible. I know the Christian faith really well. I have see God do some jaw dropping things. I have had experiences that I neither can explain or deny. I don’t ave the kind of faith that lets me quit my job and trust God will take care of every little thing, but I do have faith that leads me to pray some crazy prayers and trust god to do what he does even when I can’t understand it.

    Don’t tell me I need more. It makes me want to shut you down with theology and the Bible… because your shaming of me and those I love makes me angry.

    An elder at the church I was at in Utah committed suicide. His wife left the congregation because of the shame.

    Let me put this as graciously as I can: fuck that noise.

    Jesus isn’t about your shame. Pay attention to then man who wouldn’t extinguish a smoldering wick or crush a bruised reed.

    • So very well said, Aaron. And for what it’s worth, I’m so sorry you, and your dad, went through that. For an institution that’s supposed to know the Answer, we often do a piss poor job of representing Him.

  • About eight years ago my daughter went from 1-2 seizures a year to 6+ a day. Our neurologist was basically calling me and my wife liars, so I was really angry and felt alone in this. Looking for consolation, hope or SOMETHING from God, I met with my pastor. I walked him through the changes in Cynthia’s health, and the interactions with her neurologist. After relaying the story, I laid it all at his feet. “Pastor, what is the best way for me to respond to this? I am so angry, I cannot see straight. I could really use some guidance.”

    “Chris, it is clear to me that you have one of more character issues in your life that allowed the Enemy access to your child and her health. Based on the scenario as you have laid it out, I assume you began losing a spiritual battle of some sort around the time your daughter came off the medication, and you are still losing that battle right now. We know from the New Testament that seizures are from demon-possession, but your daughter is not at fault here. You are. Let’s pray and figure out what might be opening the door in your life for Cynthia’s seizures. I am confident God can shut any door you have opened due to your disobedience, once you confess it and repent.”

    His response floored me then, and still hurts as I write it today. I wish I could tell you this is the last time I was rebuked for the sin in my life that resulted in my daughter’s seizures, but it’s not. Indeed, it’s been a recurring theme in our family for the past decade. Questions about whether we consistently pray for her healing, or whether we are faithful tithers, or if we have confessed any and all sins to God. It never seems to end. My wife and I have largely decided that we need to manage our pain, sorrow and suffering related to seizures apart from the Church at large. Instead we share with a few trusted friends, who know our family and our heart. Otherwise, we keep these things to ourselves, as no good will come of being transparent.

    • SERIOUSLY!!!!! Someone charged with the gospel said that to you?!?!

      I don’t even know what to say man. Look, I know I’m way far away and stuff, but if you need to talk about this stuff call me. You need a safe place. Assholes that shame you and your family are just that: assholes whome jesus loves, but he’s not happy with.

      I am so sorry this has happened.

      • Aaron, I so deeply appreciate this. I didn’t even realize how hurt I still was by what happened until I started writing about it in my memoir. I literally have been stuck all day, overcome with emotion and despair and lacking all motivation. I didn’t connect the dots for why until I read this post. I need to do some business with my God. NOW, I have a sin in my heart—bitterness. Once I deal with that, I may give you a call Aaron.

      • Me, too. Brothers and such ought not to be. Someone I know asked, out of a place of deep need, if someone could visit from time to time. They were told “We don’t have that.”

        • “We don’t have that?”

          Well, we should

    • Oh, Chris, thanks for sharing your story! It sucks so bad to be that vulnerable, and get shot down. And it sucks to have to hide one’s pain.
      Would you guest post for me, please? Talk about the anger that was engendered by that time in your life.

      • Sure, I will put something together. Give me some time to put something together and I will send it to you.

        • Thanks! Sure appreciate it. I’m starting next Monday with a post from Kevin Haggerty. So anytime after that.

  • My mom had a nervous breakdown when I was in middle school. My youth minister, in our youth bible study on night, said that mental illness was most often the result of demon possession. It’s a wonder I’m in church at all.

    • Wow, Larry! I’m so sorry to hear that. Why is it we do that? Spiritual things that aren’t necessarily spiritual and/or label things we don’t understand?

      I think the problem is that, by and large, most evangelicals don’t have a biblical worldview.

      • Yes. And we decide something and make that “gospel” for everyone.

  • Susan Heiser

    I’ve been a Christian now for almost 42 years. I’m an intelligent woman, I know the Bible very well, and I know what I believe. And this is what God desires of us: that we love Him, and that we love our neighbors, and that we love our brothers, and that we love our enemies, and that we love ourselves. That covers everyone. There’s no excuse for Christians to treat one another the way you guys have discussed. I’m so sorry for your pain. I do rejoice, though, that you’re all still in love with God and using the experiences to reach out to others. God bless you all, and thanks for the reminder to me to love with God’s heart and not my own very fallible one.

    • Amen! Well said! “Love with God’s heart.” The world would be a far, far better place.

  • Jesse Hoover

    Great post Chad….so true….I often think if we are all part of the problem…I know too well that I have every intention of helping people when they are struggling, but feel inadequate myself. This usually lends me to not want to let others know that I need help too.

    • Thank-you! Oh, for sure--my own sense of inadequacy often threatens to shut me down. “How can I help?” Most times, it’s not by doing anything, but just being there.

      • Jesse Hoover

        Which I usually ask…what does it mean, ‘to be there’? If I feel helpless to do anything but just sit there and listen is that ‘there’ enough?

        • Guess that depends upon the person, their situation, etc. Everyone’s different. In broad terms, guys want to fix; when we can’t, we often shut down. Women generally want to feel heard, want to be understood.

          But it all gets very deep very fast.