“Shame is essentially the degree to which you mistake your labels for your identity.” Psychologist Charlotte Kasi
“Shame on you!” “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
Are there any two more debilitating sentences in the English language? Truthfully, I think not.
And the follow up to the second sentence often goes like this, “You should be ashamed of yourself… because I sure am ashamed of you.” Few sentences are more degrading than telling a child that their behavior shames the parent or an authoritative adult.
Shame Can Last a Lifetime
The greatest problems regarding shame are twofold: (1) The child believes the adult is right, and (2) THOSE WORDS STICK… like for ever. As we all know, when you believe that label it will haunt you for the rest of your life.
I think that one of the most untaught behaviors of Jesus is that he knew not shame: he embraced, accepted, and loved the people that the socially and politically elite rejected and shamed. Whores and thieving tax collectors were his people, as were sinners of all kinds. Those rejected by society and cast aside found welcome in his presence. For him, shame did not exist.
Your Core Identity
Just as psychologist Charlotte Kasi observes, “your labels are not your identity.” The problem runs deep in the heart of almost every one of us. So-called “shameful actions” are common to the human condition. We all say and do things (quite frequently) that we wish we had not done.
Humiliation and shame share the same residence. When you feel humiliated, most often you also feel ashamed because of your questionable actions. It is essential, however, not to equate errant behaviors with your core identity. Shameful actions only betray the inner brokenness we all share. And the goal of that brokenness (and accusations of shame on others) is simply a means of protecting our own self-image. We often reject “shameful” behaviors because we fear them or even because they remind us of our own errant capabilities.
A Year of Living Shamefully
Personally, I am emerging from nearly a year of this bullshit. And you know what? Most of my so-called shame has been thrown at me by my own inner voices—the ones that tell me that I am shamefully less than. In other words, I “shamed” myself. I had no need for anyone else to shame me because I am so good at doing it myself. The formula is to label myself as less than in some particular area and then allow it to grow into a false reality. I believe my own mistruths about myself.
As we are fond of saying in AA, “My mind is a very dangerous neighborhood to wander about.” And when someone offers respite, I reject any kind of praise because I am always thinking, “If you only knew the real me, you would not say such kind things about me.”
Ugh! Can you relate? What if we could only accept the truth—we are deeply loved by the Divine and our only duty is to love others in return… beginning with ourselves. Believe not the labels, and then where there is some truth, simply respond with forgiveness and kindness. That’s because it is the one truth you can count on. You are not shameful. You may be broken. But you are worthy!
Labeling Other People Always Damages
Labeling Yourself Destroys
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