“Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.  I am reading this book because it’s kind of a prerequisite for a workshop that my husband and I are going to attend in a couple of weeks called “The Daring Way” and it is based on the work of Brene Brown.

I’m fascinated by this book.

It’s a book about living vulnerably.

But first, you have to learn about shame.

I am an expert on shame.  Well, on being shamed.  And believing it.

Thinking back on the years of shame I experienced – and it’s resurgence in recent weeks, I find myself reflected in the pages of this book.  Brene says, “Shame is real pain . . . pain that results from social rejection and disconnection is real pain. . . physical pain and intense experiences of social rejection hurt in the same way. . . Shame is particularly hard because it hates having words wrapped around it.  It hates being spoken.” (pg. 71)

“Shame derives it’s power from being unspeakable. . . it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees . . . If we speak shame, it begins to wither.” (pg. 67)

Shame is exacerbated by “The Can’t Talk Rule.”  Just today, I got an email saying that someone essentially didn’t want me talking negatively about what has happened to me at the hands of church leaders.  Shame on you, Ellen, if you keep talking!

“Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to . . . makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong. . . Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (pg. 69)

My counselor understood how to combat shame – what Brene calls “shame resilience.”  It’s “the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame . . . moving from shame to empathy. . . If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive . . . because shame is a social concept – it happens between people – it also heals best between people. A social wound needs social balm, and empathy is that balm.  Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect, and experience empathy.” (pg. 74-75)

This is why my counselor insisted that I share my story.  Because I needed to experience the balm of empathy from people who love and care for me.

The thing is, when I shared my story, I found out for sure who doesn’t love me.  And for a brief time, I let them shame me even more.  And then I began learning what Brene calls “self-compassion.”  But, it isn’t really “self” compassion – it’s letting the God who loves me – who will never leave or forsake me – speak truth to me about who I really am rather than listening to those who couldn’t love me and were bent on shaming me.

I’m learning quite a lot about how those who couldn’t love me are probably unable to do so because of their own shame.  And how their shame “straightjacket” and my shame “straightjacket” created a dynamic that was lethal.  You see, I felt shame because I was not “heard or validated” which caused me to “resort to pushing and provoking with criticism.”  This is a female response to shame.  The man to whom I expressed my angst felt shame because he was “criticized for being inadequate” and so he “shut down (leading [me] to poke and provoke more) . . .” (pg. 104)

Men tend to either shut down or respond with anger.  Thus it was with the second man who was assigned to deal with me.  I had been told by his assistant that he is known to respond to women who are not compliant with an immediate reaction of writing them off.  Men who respond to shame with anger often “steamroll anyone” which Brene says may even cost them their marriage and their relationships with their children. (pg. 98)

I must say, after reading, I found myself wishing I had known these things years ago.  I think (hope) I would have been able to respond differently.  And perhaps had I responded differently, they would have responded differently, as well.  Perhaps then, there would have been more of a “turning to each other” rather than a “turning on each other.” (pg. 101)  Now, “even if we apologize, we’ve done serious damage because we’ve demonstrated our willingness to use sacred information as a weapon.” (pg. 105)

Dangerous information on both sides.  I told my story.  They shared my confidences.

Serious damage.

It takes one to forgive.

It takes two to reconcile.

We all pushed too far.

Serious damage.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.


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