When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

I should have handled it better.
I should have been prepared.
I should have more to give.
I should get more done.
I should be happier.
I should be kind.
I should pray.

I couldn’t pray.

Praying evokes some sort of awareness of God’s presence and I didn’t want my heart to be in anyone’s presence. It’s hard to want to be around anyone when you feel disgraced:

When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is really hard to say.…I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him (my husband). I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.                                                  ~From When I Should Feel Joy #1

My “should’s” slopped me in shame so all I wanted to do was hide. That’s what one does when covered in sticky, smelly sh*t. Cover. Hide. Blame. Get me outta here.

Shame doesn’t want to be near any person – much less God. And the truth doesn’t matter a whole lot when insurmountable feeling blocks reason. I couldn’t look my husband in the eye for months. He couldn’t convince me of anything. It didn’t take long before I realized all of this was about God, too.

I was so afraid that God was shaking his head as he looked on me that I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, either. When I did lift my gaze, all I seemed to see was God’s profile. Maybe he was not only shaking his head at me, maybe he wasn’t even looking. Maybe he turned his head when I called out to him.

What’s the point of talking to a god who doesn’t see me? It’s humiliating.

And yet, I felt something stirring. Deep-seeded belief kept whispering –Don’t give up…Wait for it…

This went on for a year. We made plans for me to have a week away at class with an author who mentored me through his books since I was in college. For a few more months I maintained the resolve to tread water and wait for time when I could slip away from the expectations of young motherhood and deal with all I had been avoiding. I needed those days without tangible responsibilities in order to untangle. And boy, was I tangled – strangled by my own fear.

Something had to give.

I had to give back to God something I had taken: the right to determine my own value.

To tuck in our hearts today:

  1. Shame is not guilt. When I feel guilty for things I’ve done wrong, it’s like feeling the realistic weight or consequences of what I’ve done. Feeling that weight is heavy and sad but it also has a simple answer. I’m forgiven. Debt paid. Done. Guilt is eradicated by forgiveness. I am Loved and loveable, guilty or not.*Though I try not to seek it, I actually welcome guilt because I want to know the consequences of what I do. I don’t want to be oblivious to how I hurt others – I want to turn pain-infliction into healing-love. Forgiveness produces beautiful things like freedom and joy and love and gratitude.
  1. Shame assumes my value goes up and down based on what I bring to the table. It isn’t surprised when I hide because it wants me to feel embarrassed when I don’t meet expectations. It assumes I will work hard to keep from being embarrassed. When I failed and couldn’t make up for it, I hid. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that.Whose expectations was I concerned about, anyway? Truth be known, I spent a lot of time comparing myself to my ideal self – the Andrea I always thought I could be: strong, competent, prepared, happy, kind, good, etc. When all of that unraveled, I didn’t know who I was or how to hold it together. Other people had expectations for me, as well. When I met their expectations I felt more valuable. When I didn’t, I felt worth less. Shame colored my vision of the past, present and future. I couldn’t feel the guilt that leads to forgiveness and love because I didn’t feel I was worth it.

I had to give back to God something I had taken:
the right to determine my own value.

Your value is NOT based on what you bring to the table. You are not an object to be assigned value by any person, including yourself. Your value is inherent in your being and is no more or less than any other human being’s value.

From the bottom of my forgiven heart:

YOU are Loved. Live it out loud.

You are loved. Live it out loud.

*I do believe that I am Loved and loveable. But I also realize that when I hurt another, their trust in me is not automatically restored with forgiveness. Trust takes time and faithfulness.

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Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Tips to Prevent and Fight Depression