Why is shame getting so much press these days? How is it that one single emotional state has seemingly propelled someone like Brene Brown to the heights of notoriety?
Shame carries with it fundamental features with which we are all quite familiar. First, it is primarily an emotional state that is embodied any time we experience it.
Shame is a deeply felt physical phenomenon, and not something we think in terms of actual words. Thus, its healing cannot simply be boiled down to ‘thinking’ differently about what we know to be true.
Shame is characterized by its tendency to induce hiding on our part. I mean, who really wants to be seen when we are so convinced that our appearance—especially those parts of us that feel weak, broken, or needy—is so awful.
Our hiding begins literally with our turning away and averting our gaze physically, and ends with our keeping as many parts of our pathos out of the sight lines of others and ourselves.
No one in their right mind would ever choose to turn the light on to expose the shame they feel. That would be…too shaming.
But of course we know that, not only the healing of shame, but being liberated to new creative heights, begins with bringing into the light the very part of us that screams to keep us in the dark.
It turns out, then, that the very thing we are, in our worst seasons of shame, most terrified of—exposure—is where we must turn if liberation from shame is what we really want.
If the freedom to live as we were made to live is what we most deeply desire—if flourishing in communities of goodness and beauty is the hunger that our soul most longs to be satiated—we must reveal our shame at its very root.
The good news about Jesus is that God knows all about shame, and not just as an abstract idea from which he has been immune to experience.
No, rather, it is something that he knows all too well because he has been to its very center—and lives to tell about it.
The question for us is, what does Jesus do when shame is at his doorstep? My hope in writing The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves is to share the good news about shame, and about the story it is trying to tell.
God is telling a very different story, one of healing our shame, changing our brains, and setting us free to create as we never have before.
I hope you join me as we talk more about the importance of dealing with shame in our lives.
Curt Thompson, M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in Falls Church, Virginia and founder of Being Known, which develops teaching and seminars to help people connect interpersonal neurobiology and Christian spirituality to bring genuine transformation. Dr. Thompson graduated from Wright State University School of Medicine. His clinical focus has been the treatment of adults, adolescents, and families. He is the author of