Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shame Off You...Chapter 2: "When Shame Becomes Grace"

(Direct words from the book are noted in blue.)
Chapter 2 began with the story of a girl who the author described as a "bruised reed". Her story began at the age of 8 and ended with the graciousness of God's glorious hope. I, like this young girl, have carried that same sense of bruising shame since I was a young girl.
  • My dad temporarily left our home when I was a young girl and that was the 1st of many childhood and teenage incidents that I felt was my fault. The story of the girl in this chapter didn't feel that she was good enough.
  • I felt that I had asked too much...been too much of a burden. I learned, early on, to not ask anything from others. If I couldn't take care of it myself, then it simply wasn't going to be because the heaviness of feeling such responsibility had already stripped too much away from my soul.

The concept of making "impossible vows" was discussed.

"Vows" that I remember making included, I can't ever let specific ones see me cry either because I had to be strong for them or expressing that sort of weakness/vulnerability would lead to some sort of emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. I could deeply relate to the words about a soul being crippled with fear. I am just now, at 38 years of age, learning to walk without emotional crutches.

Shame finds its foothold in that fault line---between what you ought to be and what you are. Unresolved, it's a chasm that invites a mantra of despair. You must measure up to be worth anything, but you can't measure up, so what's the use of living?...Shame binds people into a prison of performance-based living. I believe shame to be the single greatest source of anxiety in the universe.

  • I am so grateful that within the past 2-3 years, God has shown me through His Word and His people that no amount of "doing" warrants His love for me or the gift of His salvation. What a freedom! I am slowly learning to accept that He is in control of all. I never was. I never had to be. I never can be.

Alan Wright discussed the sport of greyhound dog racing---how the greyhounds, time and time again, shoot out of their gates at unbelievable speeds in an attempt to catch a "rabbit" that is and always will be unattainable. He compared this race for the unattainable to how shame-based people are chasing after an unattainable love.

He posed the wondering of what might happen to the dogs if they realized that no matter how fast they ran, no matter how hard they tried, they'd never be good enough to catch that rabbit. Analogous to how one's life can become when it has been based upon those "impossible vows". Hope would disappear. Anxiety would grow. Emotional anguish would feel unbearable. He points out how those who carry shame run even harder out of the desperate longing for love. "Plainly put, shame is the painful feeling that there is some flaw in you that keeps you from catching the rabbit."

People use shame to motivate others because they don't know the way of God. God never uses shame to motivate us toward right living or excellence. He never motivates us withholding His love from us. God does not motivate by withholding love, but by giving love.

  • What an amazingly freeing thought. This truth spoke volumes to my soul. I do not have children of my own but this truth is already altering how I handle classroom discipline to the precious children that have been entrusted to my care.

Wright expressed his thoughts on how the "sequence" of Genesis 1:28 contrasted commonly believed messages of Christianity: "Love the Lord, do good, give generously, live right, serve God, and the Lord will really love you and bless you." He shared what he believes to be the true Biblical formula: "God really loves you and has blessed you; therefore, love the Lord, do good, give generously, live right, and serve God...Shame does change behaviors---but it doesn't change hearts...Grace means God loved you before you Him."

  • That definition of grace is the most clearly that I've ever understood the concept and I am in awe. I don't have to try harder. My motivation of service to and for God is because of His love for me not an attempt to earn that love. I only need to look to God as my Savior and accept His gracious gift. He is the only One capable of saving.
The chapter, again, ended with an ABC format.
Ask: What "rabbits" have I chased and why?

Believe: "The sequence is everything: God blessed Adam and Even and then told them to be fruitful. The blessing came first." I do not have to be fruitful in order to be blessed. I am blessed and, therefore, I can be fruitful.

Choose: I choose today to quit pursuing that which cannot be caught. I will no longer seek to earn love because love cannot be earned. I will surrender my efforts to prove myself acceptable.


  1. I went back and read your other posts on this book and am intrigued. Sounds like some good stuff. I'll keep following through your posts. Sounds like you are getting a lot. Love the ABCs. I am a simple girl after all! Break it down for me and I'm yours!

  2. Never thought of connecting chasing rabbits to the furious activity of shame-based behavior, but it is a power connetion. Great metaphor. I have forwarded this post on. Good job.

  3. Surrendering efforts to make oneself acceptable... ah, not an easy one. Makes me think of Jennifer's recent post "Please Include Me" (over at 'Getting Down with Jeus'). These feelings run deep in us.