But I’m okay in see-through skin
I forgive what is within…”
-Of Monsters and Men, “Crystals”
As many readers may already know, I’ve been doing a journalistic approach (previous Shamefessionals here) to my discovery of shame, fear, and vulnerability. For those who may not be reading along with the series, we are defining shame based off the research of Dr. Brene Brown. She defines shame as:
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
I believe in speaking our shame and being transparent with it. I offend a lot of folks and make them uncomfortable with how open I am with the topics of shame, fear, and vulnerability. However, Dr. Brown’s postmodern narrative approach is my best treatment plan, so I voice these things. As the Of Monsters and Men lyrics above state, “I know I’ll wither, so peel away the bark because nothing grows when it is dark…I’m okay in see-through skin!” Exploring these topics while I’ve become enlightened to and aware of them helps me to process, ponder, and heal from these things. It is in bringing them to the Light in blogging that I find a therapeutic outlet and process. I’ve learned to be okay with my “see-through skin” with these things because as the rest of their song goes it helps me to “forgive what is within!”
Shame is a wound within that festers and grows until it consumes our entire being if we don’t realize it and bring it to the Light. Just today I was reading Rachel Held Evans’ new book, “Searching for Sunday,” when she says:
When Jesus said he came not for the righteous, but for the sinners, he meant he came for everyone. But only those who know they are sick can be healed. Only those who listen to the rumblings in their belly can be filled. Only those who recognize the extent of their wounds and their wounding can be made well!” -Rachel Held Evans “Searching for Sunday”
I know via discovering these wounds of shame and fear that they are massively engraved in my bones, in my heart’s deepest recesses. Acknowledging these via my research, study, conversations, and writing help me bring these wounds into the Light of Christ to be healed because as I believe Christ bore all our shame and conquered it through the Resurrection. Father Stephen Freeman once said of shame,
If we will accept that little shame, we will meet the Crucified Christ at that very point, for it is He who bears our shame. It is not in our strengths and wonderful qualities that we meet Christ. Our egos are so impregnable at those points that such a union is impossible…
The bearing of a little shame is our own crucifixion. It unites us with Christ’s bearing of the whole Adam’s shame (the shame of the whole of humanity), which is His crucifixion.”
I say all this as the prelude to the following:
Last night I was telling a friend last night how I use to want like 6 or 7 kids. The idea of a large family appealed to me at one point. She asked me what changed about it.
I told her I don’t know. Got walked out on in marriage, got started too late in my career, can’t find the right person that I’d love to see mother my children. I’m also too impatient, too selfish. Above all, I have the pervading sense I’d be a horrible dad. The thought of a large family and growing old with lots of grandbabies and the whole family getting together all the time and adoring me and my wife in our older years just seems utterly unrealistic to me know.
To be honest, raw, and vulnerable with those who read these ramblings, much of what I think, feel, and say these days, I believe, is probably shame-driven more than likely. Especially when it comes to church (why I’m a drop-out), marriage (why I have a very negative view of it and lean towards cohabitation, never marrying again, and exploring more liberal interpretations of human sexuality), and family related stuff (why I don’t want kids or a family at this time). That doesn’t negate my experiences in any way though, but it colors the lens through which I see it. I know deep down in my bones it’s a part of them (On a side note, I’d still need to sort through a lot of wreckage to be able to ever settle in Orthodoxy if I ever ended up back there when I’m ready to explore all that one day).
If you were to ask me what my most sincerest prayer and hope is I’d quote a pre-schism Saint named Anskar who said, “If I were worthy of such a favor from my God, I would ask that he grant me this one miracle: that by His grace He would make of me a good man.”
That deep down in my being is all I want and strive for. But it seems utterly impossible.
My friend mentioned she wasn’t too sure what a good man even entails and that she found striving to be one should count for something. And she’s right. I guess a godly man is what makes one a man. A man who who loves the Lord and seeks to be in communion with Him. Who is patient, kind, gentle, strong, compassionate. Lots of things I guess.
It’s just I’ve always been one that would rather not try because I may fail. Then I out grew that and did try. I tried being a good husband and maybe one day a good father. So it’s that deep pervading sense of inadequacy, shame poking its ugly head again, that drives me to disagree with traditional values I once held so dear. I feel the values failed me and maybe that is misplaced blame. Maybe there isn’t blame? But in a chronic shame situation there has to be and its easier to blame than just accept that life didn’t unfold correctly? Or how I thought it would?
However, I do feel the structures we often hope in, trust in, believe in, and live within and such failed me if that makes sense. Maybe out of fear of that happening again I reject the structures, of which Orthodoxy is a part by and large, and attempt to reconstruct safer ones? Deconstructing them at this point seems helluva a lot easier than ever trying to live within them again! And it’s easier to reconstruct ones that are more safe, less vulnerable, and more defensive against hurt, pain, failure, etc.
I don’t have the answer to a lot of my questions here. I’m not yet through the forest with the non-shame sides of many of the things mentioned. I’m definitely not free from shame, so these blogs, these therapeutic journals, are my way of wrestling, of struggling with the “silent epidemic” that is shame! These are a form of catharsis for myself and form of helping for anyone who may discover themselves in combat with the monster of shame.
If I could face them
If I could make amends
With all my shadows
I’d bow my head
And welcome them
But I feel it burning
Like when the winter wind
Stops my breathing”
-Of Monsters and Men, “I of the Storm”