Earlier this week, we got an email from my six-year-old daughter’s teacher to the parents saying that kids have been bringing toys to class, and it has become a distraction. I knew that my daughter had been one of the culprits and that I had to have a conversation with her. When I brought the incident up to her, you could visibly see the emotion flood over her. She was embarrassed and ashamed. I could see her face become flushed, tears came to her eyes, and she started to speak with a different tone. My heart broke for her, and although I know she needed to learn from her mistakes, I desperately wanted to rescue her from those feelings in that moment.
I think the reason we want our kids to avoid the pain of shame is because we know how it feels in us. Shame hurts us. In a deep way. Because shame, unlike guilt, says, “I am something bad,” rather than guilt which says, “I’ve done something bad.” Shame perpetuates a message in us that we aren’t good enough. We don’t have what it takes. And maybe that’s due to a mistake we’ve made in our past, maybe that’s a message we heard a long time ago that we can’t get rid of, or maybe it’s a part of our circumstances that are outside of our control. When shame gets a hold of us, it’s hard to let it go.
Shame and isolation go hand in hand. Check out last week’s blog to learn more about the role isolation plays. When you are isolated, you start to feel shame about being isolated. You start to believe that you are the type of person that should be alone. You tell yourself a story about yourself that says no one really likes you. And things that you believe long enough, you start to become. In Luke 6:34, Jesus says that we speak what is in our hearts. So if lies of shame live unguarded in our hearts and minds, then we will begin to see them in our lives.
Author Dr. Brene Brown is a shame researcher who has an incredible TED talk about shame. She says, “if you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” Often, when we feel shame, the last thing we want to do is tell someone. We want to keep it a secret. And we judge ourselves for it. We can start to feel bad about feeling bad.
But often, what we need most is the thing we are most afraid of. We need to expose ourselves. We need to be vulnerable and share about our shame. My dad often says that what lives in the dark can’t survive in the light. Brene Brown says something similar. She says, “If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” When we can open up and share about how we are feeling, what we are facing, and the challenges we are experiencing with a trusted friend, and we can be met with empathy, the shame is eradicated in us.
This is the whole impetus behind our #NotAlone campaign. We want to fight against isolation. We want to be an army of shame coverers. Our text number is an effort to provide an easy step towards connection that you can take when you are feeling alone, isolated, or ashamed. We also have content daily on our social channels and our website to encourage you, hopefully exactly where you find yourself.
If you are experiencing the deep pain of feeling shame, please know you are not alone. We have all been where you are. Some of us are there right now with you. Your circumstances may not change, we don’t have a magic pill for you, but we do want to be with you on the journey. To carry some of your burdens alongside you. You can do it. You can swim upstream.
We believe in you!