A few years ago, Dr. Diane Langberg presented on the topic of shame at the 2014 Community of Practice hosted by the American Bible Society. She describes the toxicity of shame as a distinct part of trauma, especially betrayal trauma. You will learn about the cognitive phase of shame, kinds of shame experienced and how the response to shame takes one of 4 common forms (i.e., withdraw, avoid, attack self, attack others).
Make sure you watch to the end as she shares some insights to how God understands and responds to our problem of shame. See how Jesus enters in to our shame.
A couple of years ago Diane Langberg spoke on shame and trauma for the American Bible Society. I highly recommend this 56 minute presentation. She talks about the experience of shame, the stickiness of self, communal forms of shame, and the myriad ways we respond to shame across various cultures.
We watched it again in staff meeting today. Make sure you catch her discussion of what some cultures believe cleanse shame. And then notice how that is close but a huge distortion from a Christian view of what heals shame.
Watch it here.
I have 2 new posts at our Biblical Seminary faculty blog: one about what my dog teaches me about shame and desire and another about a rethinking of Christianity through the lens of evangelisation of the Masai–not into a Western-style church but into their own expression of church and community. You might not have any interest in a tribe from Tanzania, but I think you will find Father Donovan’s book an opportunity for you to re-think what the Gospel is all about.
Diane Langberg and I talked recently about the concept of shame. She mentioned reading an interesting mystery that had a couple of lines about shame that might be powerful imagery for some. The novel, C.J. Sansom’s Sovereign, is about a hunchbacked lawyer. About 200 pages in the lawyer has an encounter with King Henry the 8th. The King scorns the lawyer publicly for his hunch (at which everyone laughed).
His first reaction?
“Now I had met him. I felt for a second that he shown me what I was, an unworthy creature, a beetle crawling on the earth.” (p. 221)
Then anger arises in the lawyer. Why? for he recognizes the weight on him is not his own shame, but that of the king.
Whose shame do you carry? Most often we carry either the clear shame of our own misdeeds OR the shame foisted on us by the misdeeds of others. And it seems that the shame put upon us by abuse and maltreatment weighs us down the most. Often those who mistreat us do so in ways to make us believe that in fact we are worthy of shame or that they are righteous in their treatment of us.
What would happen if you saw it not as your own but thrust upon you by those who mistreated you? If you could hand it back (metaphorically), would your own back straighten? Would you feel less dirty and self-negating? If you suffer from shame due to mistreatment, try to imagine that the feelings are not yours but in fact the abusers. Imagine what life might be like if you were to shed that shame that does not belong to you.
On Sunday Steve Light preached from Acts regarding the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Prior to his conversion he was known to be one seeking the death of Jewish followers of Jesus. He witnessed and may have provided support for the stoning of Stephen. Upon his conversion those Christians in his circles were wary of whether he was a changed man or merely using it as a ploy to disrupt new churches. These folks had visceral reactions to such a person because they had likely experienced great suffering and distress by Paul’s hand.
Today, Christians generally think positive thoughts about Paul. He is the human author of most of the NT. His words give instruction, comfort, rebuke. We know he was a former violent man but we don’t experience him that way.
SO, here’s my question. Do you think Paul suffered from unwanted or painful memories of past actions? How did it impact him? We know very little about this from Scripture. Yes, Paul admits his past. He thanks God for unmerited grace and favor. But, he doesn’t address the existence of memories.
My thought? I think it is very human to remember shameful acts we have done. In fact, let me be bold enough to say we must remember them if we are to be human. The bigger question is rather HOW we remember them? Volf’s The End of Memory (which I have blogged through here some time ago) is instructive in answering this question.
How do you remember shameful images or memories of your past? Do they hold you back from relationships? Do they keep you paralyzed? Are you constantly trying to better yourself to make up for the past?
Several of the folks at HarvestUSA (see my sidebar for their site) have written pieces for the Philadelphia Daily News. My friend John’s piece was published most recently so click the link and read and rejoice in God’s redemptive power.