I’ve been reading a great book by Brene Brown. It’s entitled, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough.’” I saw a talk she did at a TED conference on shame and it was life-changing for me. Shame is universal, but I believe that those who have been raised in Fundamentalist Christianity suffer from shame ten-fold.
Think about it. Christianity teaches us that we are born in sin, actually sinful from the moment of conception (Book of Psalms); we have to reject things that are natural to us as humans, because they are deemed sin: Adam and Eve saw their nakedness and were “ashamed.” The sad part is that even if Christians get their external behavior in check, there’s the whole omniscient thing—their very thoughts condemn them. If you’re a woman, well…forget it, I mean, our mother, Eve, brought sin into the world that condemned everyone, forever. The Apostle Paul clearly stated that women were and are, “easily deceived.” That’s a heavy burden to bear, one that is riddled with shame. The Song of Solomon says, “His (God’s) banner over me love.” It should say His banner over me is shame. The Christian mantra: Shame, shame, shame on all of us.
As with fear, Christianity uses shame to control its followers, but for all of Christianity’s efforts to control human behavior, in my experience, it has failed. We see it in the news every day, with pastors, Sunday School teachers, and assorted good Christian people, “falling from grace.” Shame doesn’t work for the long haul. Not only that, it is destructive. Shame creates inauthenticity, and that inauthenticity is prevalent in the Christian Church. I call it the Character of Christian deceit–something I will write more about at a later date.
Brene Brown could not have put it any better than when she wrote, “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing… Putting people on the “loser board” doesn’t work. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.“ The Christian Church just buries people in shame, telling them that only Christ can change them. They eat away at our resolve to change, so that the Holy Spirit can do it for us and, well, there is not Holy Spirit to take over and Christians are left weakened and shamed.
Up until recently, I never realized that at the root of many of my struggles, even to this day, is shame, shame that was instilled in me by my Christian parents, by pastors, Sunday School teachers, and Church doctrine, from the time I was very small. It’s powerful and damaging, shame is. Although I don’t think I will ever be completely free from it, I’m learning to recognize it for what it is and handle myself more compassionately. As a Christian, I never had permission to do that. Also as a Christian, I could never been allowed to believe this: It is simply up to us. It is us. We have to see the changes that need to take place within ourselves, changes that are unique to each one of us, and believe that we have the strength within us to accomplish those changes. No religion, no god, no Holy Bible, and no shame thrust upon us. Once humanity is able to grasp this, we will all live in a healthier and happier world.
My new mantra is this: No shame, no fear, only empathy, love and kindness. Try it.