“Yes, shame is tough to talk about. But the conversation isn’t nearly as dangerous as what we’re creating with our silence! We all experience shame. We’re all afraid to talk about it. And, the less we talk about it, the more we have it.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
A Little About Shame
I’ve been reading a phenomenal book, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, over the past month or so. It was recommended by friends and my counselor. I was excited to read it…until I began. The whole point is…
to get vulnerable.
to risk yourself.
to build trust.
to open wounds.
I had decided to read it with a group. I like these people. I even love them. But getting vulnerable would be tough. Hearing vulnerability would be just as difficult. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the reason this was such a struggle was because it was so necessary.
Shame is at the root of our identity. It’s the idea that “I’m not enough, I’m bad, I don’t belong.”
This isn’t healthy for any of us. And if we’re honest, we’ve experienced it and caused others to experience it as well. We are victims and perpetrators. Shame is everywhere. It’s in our leading, our trying, our parenting, our creating, and our relating. Shame destroys, exiles, and ostracizes. It has no place in meaningful relationships.
If we took the time to examine our past and our shame many of us can trace it back to family and/or church.
The Church And Shame
I’m quick to shine a light on the mistakes of the church in America. As a pastor I believe the world around me needs me to be honest about the mistakes of the very group to which I belong, love, and serve. Just because I think the church has perpetuated shame in our society doesn’t mean I think they did it on purpose.
Most Christians I know truly want people to experience a new life. The one they’ve experienced through Jesus. They’ve simply fallen into the trap of believing people can be shamed into newness. But shame stalls transformation and brings wholeness to a screeching halt.
In an effort to show people their “guilt” (you did something bad), the message of shame (you are bad) took center-stage. But the message of the church is supposed to be an announcement that, in Jesus, what you’ve done and who you are no longer determines “whose” you are. You are a child of God!
Your actions and your nature no longer have a bearing on your belonging. The death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything. The things you’ve done that bring shame no longer enslave you. You can live free from shame.
The church simply hasn’t conveyed this message well. I meet a lot of people that are leery of me and our church simply because they don’t want to feel “not enough.” Brown calls this, scarcity, and the church is full of it. But that’s backwards.
I believe Jesus is more than enough, and that’s where my identity lays. So, I’m enough. You’re enough too.
The Last Place I’m Discussing Shame
Although the church has a history of shame distribution, I still believe it’s the best place to talk about shame. It’s all about how you decide to discuss it.
“If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light.” Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
From the stage to the seats we have to decide to get vulnerable with each other. This environment only helps if everyone participating agrees to be humble and loving. Sharing and listening are the tools we use to open the cage and release our shame.
But this isn’t necessarily what the church is good at. The church is good at teaching and preaching, right. It’s rows and a stage and a microphone and a message. This is the last place to talk about shame. Mainly because not everyone gets to talk.
That’s why we sit around tables at Downtown Faith. Sure we teach and preach. But then we open the discussion. We believe that real sharing and listening takes place as we look each other in the eye. Also, transparency is important for healing. I think the pastor/preacher has a huge responsibility to be appropriately transparent. This gives permission for everyone else to share.
Lastly, an environment created for vulnerability approaches issues like fear, guilt, and shame with a “me too” posture. If anyone (especially the preacher/pastor) in the discussion behaves as if shame isn’t an issue for them, the whole thing breaks down. We need to “normalize” if we want healing to happen. Here’s how James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about it to Jewish Christians in the first century…
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.“
Whew! That’s short and sweet, but not simple. It’s the kind of people group and gathering the church is supposed to be. I know it’s the church we want to be at Downtown Faith. I also know it’ll take time. Time to break down preconceptions and misconceptions. Time to build trust in the community. Time to love loudly.
I believe that if we are able to Commit Courageously and Worship Wholeheartedly we will be a place to talk about shame. This weekend (8.13.17) we will begin this talk. Join the discussion!