A week ago I shared a few reflections on my own experience with self-shame in The Prerequisite To Empowering Others (<—click to read the article before you read this one) so I will only share a snippet of it here.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that the answer is that we need to be kind to ourselves and stop feeling so bad for when we mess up. But I believe the process is incomplete if we ignore or deny the impact we have on others. When we mess up without acknowledging those we have hurt, we diminish the influence we have with them. If you want to love well and offer your gifts to others, it’s time to stop putting yourself down. It’s time to stop the self-shaming internal dialogue and start believing in something more true.
I went on to list 4 steps that brought me out of self-shame and toward a humility that carries with it the power to love. Today I’m beginning a series entitled “Stepping Out Of Self-Shame” to take a closer look at each of those 4 steps, one by one.
Have you ever gotten ready in the dark? How do you know if your shoes match your belt or if your shirt is on backwards?
When I talk about being in the metaphorical dark, I’m talking about being unaware or hiding what is true about yourself. Today I’m not speaking of your identity, though that is an exciting topic, itself. Rather today I’m talking specifically about weaknesses and wrong-doing. I’m lumping these two things together because I think we often get them confused.
Let’s start by identifying the differences between our weaknesses and wrong-doing.
Weaknesses are your human limitations. They are a result of the fact that you are, what I believe to be a creature, not the Creator. You need things like sleep, food, water and love to survive. You have hormones, a nervous system, etc. that can increase or decrease your ability to function fully. You are strong in some ways and weak in others. Weaknesses need to be honored and they often require that we ask for or accept help from others.
Wrong-doing is an ethical or moral breach. Sometimes we intentionally do things that we know feel wrong or we believe to be wrong. But oftentimes we hurt others unintentionally and even indirectly without knowing it because of wrong-doing in another area of life. Sometimes we cover up, hide or blame others for our weaknesses because we are worried about what others think of us. My heart sinks just thinking of it. Wrong-doing needs to be recognized and it often means we need to change our ways and ask for forgiveness from others.
How do we confuse them?
For example, one strength of mine is that I can think deeply and about life and have amazing conversations with others. But I’m weak on the flip side of that coin. I struggle to keep up with the day-to-day responsibilities of running a family. Shame tells me to beat myself up for not remembering to make sure Amelia has her glasses on before she gets to school. But that doesn’t help me remember next time, nor does it make me loving toward her when she comes home. I believe that’s wrong and hurtful toward my child. Humility tells me to be honest about my struggle to remember and ask for help or come up with a creative solution with Amelia to help her become more responsible for remembering her glasses. I believe that’s honest and a healthy way to empower her. I don’t believe I am wrong when my weakness show up. I believe I’m wrong when my anxious reaction about my weaknesses hurts the situation (my daughter) rather than helps it.
The dark can be scary
The unknown is often scary. And anxiety can turn me into a frenzied, defensive and unpleasant person very quickly. I don’t want to let my fear have control over me. I’d much rather be fueled by love. That’s why I want to step into the light where I can face my fears directly and see my weaknesses and wrong-doing for what they are. I don’t want to pretend I’m perfect because pretending like that is a lot of work! It is exhausting and anxiety-filled and it makes it really hard for me to love and empower others.
If I let my own anxiety about trying to be a good mom overtake me, I will transfer that anxiety onto those around me. I don’t want to do that. So I want to be honest with myself and ask…
What are you so afraid of, Andrea?
Are you afraid that your daughter might struggle in school? Or are you afraid that you will feel embarrassed if your child struggles in school?
Are you afraid that your daughter won’t learn to be responsible for herself? Or are you afraid that you will feel like a failure if your daughter isn’t perfectly responsible for herself?
A lot of times for me it is both. I am both concerned about my daughter and about how I will look. But if I want to empower my daughter to become all she can be, I can’t let my own anxiety that I will look bad get in the way of how I help her solve the problem.
The Light of Love
What are you so afriad of, friend? Do you have weaknesses that make you embarrassed? It’s time to face your fears and be honest. To the children of the world, let us be an example of grace and forgiveness, not self-condemnation and shame.
I believe God loves you and doesn’t look down on you when you are weak and He forgives you when you do wrong. But how will you know until you step into the light and take an honest look at yourself? Ask for help where you need help and forgiveness where you need forgiveness. Love is there to greet you.
But more on that next time…