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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shame: A place we visit, but an unhealthy place to live.


I was talking to a friend recently who was discussing a personal struggle.  Now, the friend didn't let the struggle get the better of him at that time, but it was close.  So, it occurred to me, the situation was like running on a sidewalk and nearly falling on your face, but putting down your hand to break the fall before your head hit the pavement.  Sure, your hand got roughed up a little and needs some first aid, but you could have very easily fallen on your head and ended up in the ER.

The point was not to minimize to the issue, struggle or near failure, but was to let him know that it could have been much worse and not to dwell on or beat himself up over it.  That is instead appreciate that his Higher Power kept him safe and out of trouble.  In the meantime, he could take the near failure as a warning sign and wake-up call to work on his struggles.

I think, as a people it is easy to operate in black and white thinking.  That is, either to blow failures (or near failures) completely out of proportion OR alternatively blow them off.  I believe God gave us a conscience to be aware of our imperfections and need for Him rather than to be used as a weapon to inflict harm upon ourselves or as a speed-bump to be ignored.

I guess I'd characterize legitimate shame that comes with a healthy conscience as a check and reminder for us to be mindful of our spiritual role in family, society and the world at large, but not as a sledgehammer to destroy ourselves.

To summarize, my take on what my Higher Power (God) has revealed to me and reminded me in this story:

  1. Lean on Him, His wisdom and not my own understanding, I should not take it for granted that I have all the answers or strength.  This includes leaning on Him after I make a mistake. 
  2. I am human and therefore I am bound to struggle from time to time and make mistakes.  Not to condone mistakes, intentional or not, but instead to realize that I am a work in progress.
  3. When I barely avoid a bad choice, mistake or screw-up: I shouldn't pat myself on the back for my ingenuity or 'success', but I shouldn't totally destroy myself either.  I should take it as a learning opportunity and be grateful that my Higher Power was looking out for me.
  4. When I make a bad choice, mistake or screw-up:  I should make amends where necessary and possible and reflect on it with contrition.  I should also seek what led to it and use whatever shame I feel from it not to paralyze me, but to motivate me to do whatever I need to avoid the mistake again and/or to make it right where possible.
Anyway, just my thoughts for the day.  As always, it is sometimes easier to give advice than to follow it, but at least putting it down gives me to opportunity to reflect on it myself.

Yours Truly,