Monday Mitzvahs: No More Shaming

Today, I have a couple special “guests”.  You know Oprah, but do you know Brene Brown?  If you do you are lucky, as I am to have learned from her.  If you haven’t met her yet, allow me the pleasure of introducing you.  Dr. Brene Brown is a shame researcher and author of several exceptional books.  Please take a couple minutes (less than four to be precise) and then we’ll talk about it.

Note: Brene uses teachers in this illustration about shame, but she did NOT intend it to be a slam on teachers, whom she has great respect for.  In a blog post yesterday, she apologized for the misunderstanding.

This video is so important, not only for the obvious message, but because there is a valuable message here for parents about child abuse.  If you have ever wondered why abused children don’t tell, Brene just gave you the answer: shame.  If the child feels shame–and abuse is very shaming–then they won’t tell.  It really is that simple and that powerful.  Shame is crippling.  Shame is suffocating.  And it is so unnecessary.

I think Brene also offers a very powerful solution here as well.  No name calling–not even to yourself.  I don’t use negative names with my children and I don’t think any of my friends do either, but I suspect we are all guilty of shaming ourselves.  I believe (and deeply hope) that if we give our children a home without shame, they will be more shame-resilient as they move into the world–more likely to experience humiliation (rather than shame) and therefore healthy anger–which will be a great protection for them.

So today’s mitvzah is to stop the shaming.  Be gentle with yourself.  Who knows but you how hard you try?  And how much you care your family and friends?  So give yourself the gift of kindness.

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Easter: He knows our Shame

Lucy Toner

One of the many difficult things survivors deal with is an overwhelming sense of shame.  I remember well how it crept into my life, like a horrible disease that begins with symptoms that are almost unnoticeable, then grows in severity until it becomes crippling.

I fought it. Know that I did.  I didn’t go down without a fight, but while my logical and surface part of my mind told me “what happened was not your fault”, my emotional and much deeper rooted belief was that it was.  It happened because I was bad.

One day I was asked to substitute in one of the children’s classes at church, the 4 yr olds.  I panicked.  I felt too unclean, too ashamed to be with those sweet little children and talk to them about the things of God.  I felt I had no right to speak of such things.  I was startled by this, but powerless to overcome it.

Then I was asked to give a prayer in a meeting…something I had previously enjoyed.  I couldn’t do it.  I was embarrassed to say no, but I would have been even more ashamed if I had said yes.  How could I speak to God on behalf of the group?  I couldn’t.

I stopped sharing comments in classes.  I had previously loved teaching, or giving a talk, but I could do none of them anymore.  What felt like the greatest blow was when I went to the temple.  The temple had always been a place of peace and comfort to me, but no more.  While I was in the temple, I felt miserable, ashamed, unworthy.  The pain was terrible.  I tried again another time with the same result.  My peace was taken from me.

I am doing better now.  I have begun to pray in church again, and well who knows…perhaps soon I will feel ready to speak or teach again. I am thinking of going to the temple soon…it has been a few years, maybe it is time.  I hope it is.

The reason I am sharing this today…of all days…Easter…is for my fellow survivors.  I know your shame and your pain.  I know that telling you it is not your fault will not be enough to make it go away.  But I want you to know, that the Savior understands our shame.  He can help us, and we can turn to Him because He knows.

Philosophers throughout the ages have asked “why does God allow bad things to happen to good people”.  I have asked that question myself, as a deeply personal question, not a philosophical one.  I don’t know the answer, but I find comfort in knowing that Christ suffered too, so that He could help us with our pain.

He chose to come to earth during the time of the Roman rule.  He chose to be born in poor circumstances.  He chose to associate with people who were outcasts, the lepers, the sinners, the tax collectors.  And when it was time for His death, He allowed Himself to be killed in the most shameful way the Romans could think of.

The usual Jewish form of capital punishment was stoning.  Pilate seems to have given them permission to do this, and yet that would not appease them.  They sought for crucifixion precisely because it was shameful.  Even the Romans did not use it for their “good” citizens.  It was reserved for slaves, and the most base criminals.

They always chose to do crucifixions in public areas, like well-traveled roads, so that people would see those  who were being crucified, see them there naked.  Romans disrobed the people being crucified and attached them to crosses like animals, intentionally, they wanted the experience to be dehumanizing.  And all this in addition to the physical horrors.  No one deserves that sort of death, but especially not Christ, who had spent his life serving others, teaching, healing and uplifting, and yet there He was.  Innocent and treated with shame.  We, survivors, are too often weighed down by a shame we don’t deserve.  Christ understands.  He has conquered death, and overcome shame.  He can help us do the same.

Photo Attribution: Lucy Toner