Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Debilitating Power of Shame

Over the past few months I have been totally amazed at how quickly we can be to shame someone for  things going on in their lives.  In more particular we are quick to shame when we don't understand or accept a certain lifestyle, habit, or mindset.  I have watched how shame causes heartache and confusion in the lives of those affected.  Both the one being shamed and the one shaming.

I ask a few simple Questions.

What is the reason we choose to shame someone in the first place?
Do we think by shaming them we will get the desired result from them?
Does the act of shaming make me feel better about who I am?
Does the act of shaming make others feel better about who they are?
Does the shaming cause change or the desire to be better?

Question #1
What is the reason we choose to shame someone in the first place?  I have observed that when we choose to shame someone we are often filled with lack of understanding.   We act out on fear of what they are doing and most often the person we are shaming is close to us and we are consumed at how what they are doing will make us look.  Often it is not about them at all.  We are worried that someone will judge us because of what they are doing.  For example,  a wife that finds out that her husband struggles with Same Gender Attraction (SGA) shames him,  she is not thinking about the burden he  carries,  instead she most often struggles with what others will think of her.  Questions like,  Am I not good enough for him, and what have I done wrong.   Filled with these questions shame is piled on the man  when what he really needs is understanding and compassion.  Shame should never be applied or used, especially when someone is struggling with what we may consider a weakness.  We use shame as a shield to protect our image and our hearts.  When we strike with shame it justifies us and our feelings.  Yet in the process it destroys the trust and love of those we are shaming.

Question #2
Do we think by shaming them we will get the desired result from them?  Shame has never or never will give someone the desire to improve.  I should state that someone should feel regret for his actions, but shame is not the motivating power to get someone to even take a closer look at what we might consider a weakness.  Once again I will use the example of SGA.  Many who struggle with this are already filled with shame and frustration.  Does anyone for a moment think that anyone who struggles with this asked for this struggle.  Absolutely not and by shaming them we only add to the huge burden they already carry.  Shame does not lift or comfort,  it pulls one down deeper into despair and frustration.  If we really want someone to grow from the struggle they have we must put shame aside and open our hearts to love and understanding.  Even when we have no clue or comprehension what they are struggling with.  Shame does not heal,  it opens the wounds deeper and deeper until all hope is lost.

Question #3
Does the act of shaming make me feel better about who I am?
If we feel better after shaming someone who is struggling with any challenge we need to take a good look at our hearts.  I find myself examining my heart on a regular basis and find I need a constant reminder to remember that I have challenges of my own that others do now understand and so I try not to judge or shame those around me that are struggling.  Simple things that we might find offensive are often nothing in reality and the person who does them often times is unaware that what he is doing is offensive.  Often times when they are aware of what they are doing,  they are fighting the battle of personal shame.  We are our worst enemies when it comes to shame.  We really don't need anyone else doing it for us,  we do fine on our own.

Question #4
Does the act of shaming make others feel better about who they are?
I don't know anyone who feels better or has gained strength to improve after being shamed.  I believe that it just pulls one down and takes away the desire to be better.   On the other hand when we love and lift and encourage others who are struggling they move forward with faith and joy knowing that someone believes in them.  Kindness always wins and understanding always brings out the best in others.  Shame only destroys and often the heart is so tender that it takes very little shame to do a lot of damage.

Question #5
Does the shaming cause change or the desire to do better?
NO, NO, NO.   Shame is a horrible, mean, damaging thing to do.  If we want change in those around us we need to love, lift, and understand.  Only when we can put ourselves in the shoes of another and really try to see where they are coming from can we begin to have the power to lift others out of the shame they feel.  Shame is not a fix it all.  Shame does not bring about the desire to change.  We are not helping the struggling person when we try to shame them.  We need to be lifters and encourager's to build faith and confidence that no matter what we can all rise above any challenge we might have and live a life devoid of shame inflicted on us by others and ourselves.  We should never define ourselves by the shame we feel.  We are so much greater in every respect then the shame we bring upon ourselves or the shame that is inflicted upon us.

Shame only leads to frustration and heartache.  It does not build and strengthen.   Shame, I believe, takes away from the Divine Power of Grace.  Blessed be the person who comes to understand the Worth of a Soul and sees beyond the weakness or fault and can lift and love another without shaming them, even when we don't understand the burden they are carrying.

Greatest success to each of you as you learn to lift others above the personal shame they may be feeling.

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