Archives For shame

Grief and Shame

randomlychad  —  October 2, 2013 — 12 Comments
'Beach Wail' photo (c) 2007, The Wandering Angel - license:

It came to my attention that an acquaintance passed away recently. As someone who was only casually acquainted, I felt sad about this loss. This person was a respected member of the community, but they and I shared no depth of relationship.

As such, as I said, I felt a sadness. But I would be disingenuous if I termed it grief. Who knows? Maybe I’m broken; after all, “no man is an island,” as Donne wrote all those years ago…

Contrast this with the response of another acquaintance, who knew the deceased very well, was indeed friends with this person: they grieved. This wasn’t merely an “oh, that’s sad” reaction, but honest tears welling up from a wonded soul, aching from the loss.

Because they knew the departed.

Even so, and the thing which floored me, was this person seemed full of self-reproach for grieving a very real loss. For not being able to keep a kid on their emotions. They were almost ashamed of the tears which came, and hoped to do better in keeping their feelings in check.

Why is the Western world thus? Why do we feel this need to be in control–to control how we are perceived? Anguish and grief in light of a very real loss is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it’s something which makes us human. To which I would add, despite knowing the outcome, in the shortest (yet arguably most poignant) verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”

He cried because his friend, Lazarus, felt the sting of death. He cried, despite knowing He would shortly raise him from the dead. It didn’t matter; Jesus grieved.

And if He is at all our example, we would do well to follow it. When we suffer losses, we should likewise grieve–not put a lid on it, pretend it didn’t hurt, keep it under control, berate ourselves… For Christ cried, there is certainly no shame in our tears.

Ah! But we in the West don’t like to feel uncomfortable, or make others feel any discomfiture, do we? It seems the rational West all too often forgets the words of Pascal:

“The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.”

Reason–rationality–has its place. But we are not merely creatures of cold rationality. We are more: spirit, soul, and body. Mind, will, and emotions. These are meant to work in harmony. Any one exalted, or suppressed, at the expense of the others leads to a life out of balance.

Like the American system of government, these parts of our beings are supposed to provide checks and balances to the others. Feelings don’t necessarily set the course, but they can confirm, or contradict, it. And oftentimes, the most rational course of action isn’t necessarily the most loving. There are things that make sense on paper, but are absolutely terrible to implement.

Like controlling one’s emotions in the face of terrible loss. There is a cost to the soul. Listen, being human means that we are mish-mashed pile of walking, talking contradictions. Hybrid creatures–of earth, and of heaven. It means accepting that we don’t understand ourselves.

It means giving ourselves permission to not be okay. (Kids instinctively know how to do this, until life drives it out of them).

It’s okay to not be okay. To not have it all together. And sometimes that means sitting, undistracted, in discomfort. In that which makes uncomfortable.

Sometimes, the best thing for the soul is a big, ugly cry.

What do you think? Jesus had no problem displaying His emotions–joy, sadness, anger–for all the world to see.
So why do we?

Have you been there? You know–that place.

What place?

The one where you’re maligned and misunderstood by those closest to you.

There are ways, and there are ways, to deal with this.

One way is to shut down, hide within. Which means putting on a false face–a facade. But it hurts to hide who you are from those closest to you.

And the self will find a away out.

So what do you do when it doesn’t feel safe anymore to be you?

Like I said, you can hide. But this has a way of festering. Resentment is bound to grow whether you’re conscious of it, or not.

How do I know? I’ve been there. Dealt with that rejection.

I’ve been in a men’s group, and made the mistake of sharing my (personal) convictions about the age of the earth. The group imploded. Made me not want to have friends anymore. Made me want to skip the risk.

I’ve done it with family members, too. When my motives were called into question, when I’ve changed my mind about something… and was rejected. When something in social media spheres happened that was both unlocked, and unasked, for.

Somehow it was my fault.

When a friend of a friend questioned my salvation, and family members didn’t step in to defend me, but rather gave credence to it.

So I learned to hide.

And in hiding, I became vulnerable. When it was no longer safe to be me around those closest to me, I found an outlet via email. At first, it was just this fun thing where I could let my hair down, be me.

That was refreshing.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how much of myself I was investing–how much time, thought, life was going to this unreality.

Because it came to the place where I was constantly refreshing my email, looking for a message, a word, a something to…

Make me feel like me. Because I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I ask you: have you been in that place?

Take it from me: it’s far better to face your fears, risk rejection, and have the difficult conversations. (Consider this: Jesus himself spent his whole earthly life being rejected by his own. Yet in it all he did not sin).

If you’re hiding from those closest to you: take your mask off. Lay down your rapier wit.

It’s time to be vulnerable. For it’s in being thus open that, yes, we risk rejections, but at the same time paradoxically find grace.

Are you wearing any false faces today?

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.


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.

Continue Reading…

'Batch 1 ready for the Ice Cream machine' photo (c) 2010, star5112 - license: boy is eight. Having been held back a year, he is just beginning second grade. After living those first eight years in one place, he’s moved, with his family, to a new house. And this means a new school, new teachers, new friends.

Like a suit of well-worn clothes, he wears a pinched, serious expression on his face. He is quiet, would rather go unnoticed, stay out of the way.

He has learned to stay out of the way.

Life is easier that way. It is easier to forego trying, than to try, and subsequently fail. So this boy lives quietly in his mind. It’s comfortable, and safe, there. He couldn’t verbalize it, but if he doesn’t try, there’s no one to disappoint.

Again, life is easier that way.

But he starts second grade with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He makes a couple of friends (he’s never had many). Then one day, it happens.

The class is making ice cream. Each child must take a turn turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream machine.

On that still-warm not yet Fall day–the leaves still verdant on the trees–the children line up. The boy, red hair shining in the sun like fire, is neither first, nor last; he’s in the middle of the pack.

He doesn’t want to stand out, or draw attention to himself. So he blends in. Even at eight, he’s good at blending in.

Finally, his turn comes. He steps up, grabs ahold of the crank, gives it his all. His teacher says:

“Come on, Chad, even the girls can do better than that.”

The message of those words reinforces one he already lives:

You’re not good enough. You don’t have what it takes. Move on, let someone better do that.

How many moments like that have you had in your life? Did you have someone to help you interpret them?

>My One Word

randomlychad  —  January 6, 2011 — 11 Comments


My one word for 2011 is “ask.”

To understand the significance of this word, you have to understand a bit about my past. You see, I grew up with a lot of shame, and it is those shaming messages that have hung, foglike, around me coloring and distorting my perceptions.

My dad was, and is, a very sarcastic callous man, and I learned early on that I wasn’t special to him (“What the hell’s wrong with you?”). One of my strongest memories was him walking away from me in disgust after trying to teach me how bat a baseball with a Johnny Bench Batter-Up. (Remember those?). I don’t think he could deal with the fact that I wasn’t as athletic as him.

Another strong memory comes from 2nd grade, and the day my class made homemade ice cream. “Come on, Chad, the girls are better than you,” my teacher said as I cranked the handle. Just served to further reinforce the message that I didn’t measure up–would never measure up.

So I clammed up. Became shy and withdrawn. Retreated into the world of books. Got heavily into pornography. (I won’t even go into being called, despite the fact that I wasn’t, “gay” in middle school).

The bottom dropped out in May, 1983, when my dad took my brother and I to see Return of the Jedi. Right after celebrating the triumph of the Rebel Alliance, he told us he was divorcing our mother–his wife of 16 years. I was 13–almost 14–and about ready to enter high school. It would be a gross understatement to merely say it was already a confusing season in my life. But there it was, there I was, standing in a mall, not knowing anything except that, yet again, I was no good.

Do you see the shift? The shaming messages in my life morphed, in my mind, from not being good enough to not being any good at all. I was good for nothing. (I know now that it wasn’t my fault that my parents divorced–despite having an aunt, my dad’s sister, say that very thing to me: “It’s always the children’s fault”).

I share all that to illustrate why the hardest thing for me to do is just ask–and why it hurts so bad when I screw up the courage to ask, and get shot down. I fear both rejection, and success. Yet crave acceptance. How messed up is that?

“O, wretched man am I, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Because I am a broken, broken man.

(It is only just now, in hindsight, that I’m coming to realize that enemy of our souls seems to have had it in for me from a very young age. I can only take this to mean that Jesus has something special in mind for me–not that I know what it is).

There you have a brief sketch on why I believe “ask” is so important to me in 2011. Despite the fear, I will ask. Despite the reservations, I will persevere. I will simply ask. Please be kind if I ask you. Please pray for me as I trod this new road.

Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV) tells us:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”