I don’t remember how I came upon Brene Brown’s now near-classic TED Talk on vulnerability and shame. What I do remember is beginning the video while fiddling with the ever-present paper stacks on my office desk. And on my filing cabinet. And bookshelf. The TED Talk was going to be filler noise as I tidied my consistently semi-organized office in the campus ministry house in which I work.
As Brene began speaking, her words drew me in like a fisherman’s rod slowly reeling his shiny bait. She referred to herself as a “Researcher-Storyteller,” a title I had never heard before. My inner-geek feasts on both study and literature. So I was, as they say, “hooked” on how she would incarnate this title.
What truly reeled me in, however, were the stories and research Brene masterfully, even humorously, laid out. As she went deeper into the presentation, I dropped my dust rag, slung my satchel from my desk chair, and cemented myself to the video. TED and his Talks just got serious.
Have you ever heard a song lyric that expressed just that thought or feeling you’ve wanted to encapsulate with eerie accuracy? From the time I wore my Spider-Man PJs as a toddler until I sat in my office listening to Brene talk I had had an unnamed unsettledness within me. As she spoke I could sense being in a significant—I’d even say sacred—moment. I went to the office door, locked it to ensure I was not interrupted by students or staff, and went back to listening.
What I learned that day was the title to my unnamed ache. It was the name to a great number of peoples’ unnamed aches.
As Brene described it, shame is “The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
I describe it as that feeling that makes you, me, and every other person go into our locked room and ugly cry to Adele songs because we feel rejection or even the possibility of rejection.
Yes guys, men, bros, us too.
We fear the worst. The worst is not coming short of the A on the exam. It’s not after we “give it up” to that guy or girl we realize soon after won’t be “the one”. It’s also not striking out, falling short, breaking down. All those things are unpleasant. But they are not the worst.
The worst is the pit in our guts when we allow the shame monster to use those perceived shortcomings to convince us we can no longer be truly loved. It tears down our sense of self-worth the way Godzilla pulverizes a coastal city.
We cannot now belong to the team, be greeted as a brother, embraced as a sister, daughter, mother, or father. We don’t deserve it. We aren’t worth it.
We all have shame. In fact, those who deny it may have it more strongly. We all live with this other force inside of us, a non-rent-paying critical roommate who tends to point out how “they won’t love you” because of your body type; “she can’t love you” because her family is a “have” and yours is a “have not”; your father won’t hug you again when he finds out you are not skilled to be a doctor/lawyer/farmer like him.
We all feel this, know it to be true. We feel it in all sorts of ways. If you are living, you can assume a few things. You have a pulse, a decent pair of lungs, and shame pulsing internally. The attempts to cope are vast and varied. Some are productive and some not so much so.
What I hope to do in this space is explore shame pastorally and theologically. I want to interact with it in a faith-framework. Basically, I want to make the discussion “churchy.” I want the church to acknowledge Godzilla has emerged from the sea and he’s beating down church-folk.
I may blog about other things here, but what I primarily hope to begin is a clarifying and conquering movement—a shame revolt— within anyone who joins me on this journey. I’m heading in a direction of owning the esteem, value, and image crafted into us by the “Big ‘C’” Creator. I want to pierce through the fog of how shame enters the story of people created in the image of God. What happens to us when it enters the scene? What happens to God when He comes upon the scene of shame in our lives?
I then hope to explore how on God’s green earth we can find ourselves in a new, frightening yet exhilarating, place where we can be seen, warts and all, and be loved. “This will involve information revealed by Brene’s research as well as well as some revelations from the Creator. It will involve revelations from friends who have been bruised and battered by shame but have found the strength to battle through. It will involve confession, it will involve grace; losing and perhaps winning; and ultimately, it will rest in hope.
If this sounds like a journey you would like to embark on (and you do!) or if you know someone who needs to embark on this journey (and you do!), then subscribe to this feed or find me on social media. I'll try to blog each Monday. If you believe your family can glean something from this, read the blog together and discuss. If your church needs a shame revolt, share the link with your pastors, class teachers, preachers, or the old dude that pours the communion trays before worship. Seriously, that guy is always grumpy, help him out!
Its taken me a few months of writing, rewriting, and getting the nerve to press publish on this project. The gist has been on paper since May (its November now) and I’ve been worried about what you’ll think when you read this...which assumes anyone will read it. This shows you I have my own Godzilla to battle. Hopefully, you’ll join me in the revolt.