I shared my last Shamefessional about Shame and My Spirituality with my roommate who had noted changes in my beliefs and how influenced by Dr. Brene Brown I am in my life. He commented,
Your ideas and beliefs have changed more in the course of the last 5-6 years, multiple times, more than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s kinda sad though because reading what you just sent its almost as if you, by her, rubber stamp all the dogmatic things you held and nobly believed as written off shame.”
I prefer to say my beliefs evolved with study, insight, introspection, self reflection, growth, and a heavy hermeneutic of self-criticism for self and grace for others rather than a hermeneutic of self- assuredness and condemnation of others. My roommate remarked that I over-analyze all these matters. However, I still believe a lot of things I found beautiful in Orthodoxy. I still believe in the Theotokos and ask her to pray for me. I ask the saints to pray for me. I love liturgy and the beauty of classical Christianity’s spiritual practices. I still have a highly sacramental view of the Divine Mysteries. However, so far as ecclesiology goes and finding “that one true church more sure, certain, right, and shit,” that was more shame than anything.
My roommate/bestie then asked,
So then let me ask this: I’m admittedly the world’s worst Catholic, but I completely believe based upon years of exhaustive study and research that it is the one true church. There is not one iota of that to me that’s given to any notion of shame
Would you say based upon what I just told you that for me that can be a sincere belief? And I’m not harboring some yet-to-be-discovered idea of ‘shame’ or anything relatively comparable?
Absolutely! I don’t think he or anyone for that matter may believe or not believe that because of shame. I’ve never said anyone else who does believe or doesn’t believe something that it’s because of shame. I’m speaking only if myself although I know shame enough to know that it can and does impact us spirituality to some degree.
Many times close friends have had to call me out for having a hermeneutic of self-assuredness and lack of grace for others and their views. Many times I have had to be kept in check for always wanting to be right. Friends admit like, my family, I love being right.
That is where my shame ties in. It isn’t because I love to argue or debate I actually hate that shit. It has little to do with that and more to do with the thinking that if I was right and could prove it, show it, believe the right things, do the right things then I was someone. A lot of that stuff is tied up in my self-worth hence it would be foolish for me to not examine and accept the consequences of shame-based thinking so far as my spirituality and religious beliefs go.
And this is just me. Not everyone has chronic shame, but everyone has shame. It’s part of the human condition, but sometimes some of us grew up in a healthy home and have had a good upbringing and such, which can curb the things that can cause chronic shame. If you never had the conditions for chronic shame to fester and grow the impacts of shame are lesser I’m sure. So these are my issues and struggles.
I realize now that that constant battle with Orthodox ecclesiology, closed communion, and various other ethical issues/teachings was my conscious battling my shame and shame-based thinking and feeling. To clarify things from the last blog, there are truly aspects of classical Christian theology, faith, and practice I’ll always maintain and believe. However, as I said in that blog, for now I know what I need spiritually and that’s Eucharistic community, fellowship, and a safe place where healing can take place and relationships can be fostered.
In addition, it isn’t so much a changing of beliefs as it is a returning to my ecumenical, inclusive, and always-held convictions about certain matters instead of trying to force myself, because of shame, to believe in something, whether Orthodoxy is true or not, because I simply want to be right. I feel that shame-infused approach isn’t the right reasons to become or remain Orthodox when in my conscious I’ve never accepted some core components of that Christian Faith Tradition. That’s living in conflicting ways with myself, which produces a lot of anxiety, angst, tribulation, confusion, and existential crisis.
Under the surface, and I didn’t see it then, was a lot of shame when I made my intellectual ascent to Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s ironic because the person who pointed out how they thought my shame and spirituality/religion were conflated was my former priest Fr. Stephen. He told me this over a year ago, and since then I’ve thought deeply about it hence my bringing it to the blog.
I’m not saying shame has control over me or who I am or believe. I’m merely self critical enough to see how it’s impacted my decisions and choices. And to deal with all that accordingly and in ways that are healthy for me now. My friend went onto say,
Don’t let this over arching umbrella of shame you’ve come to know be something you feel you just got to accept as if it steers your life. You’re an educated dude, you’ve got a good job, a good woman now, you have friends and family who love you an you’ve got a lot to offer this world.”
This is something I’m definitely not using as an umbrella. I’m seeking to do the opposite and acknowledge my shame and how it’s impacted me. And not all my beliefs are tainted by shame hence why I still maintain some beliefs that Orthodox and Catholics have. And I’m open to one day maybe re-exploring Orthodoxy from a more healthy place spiritually and mentally. Maybe. I don’t know. Right now I’ve been attending Hopwood Christian Church and their ecumenical-liturgical community called Adoration. In fact, I feel very comfortable and welcomed in this community and question if I had had such a place in my days at Johnson University if I would have became Orthodox or not? The community is ecumenical, inclusive, and diverse, which means my wide spectrum of beliefs aren’t at odds. Nonetheless, I digress.
My acknowledging my shame and its impact on my religious beliefs/spirituality isn’t using it as a umbrella. It’s the opposite in that if shame has been an umbrella I’m lying it down and not picking it up. It’s part of healing and moving past shame. It’s the opposite of letting it steer my life to express my introspection, exploration, and confession with these darker places within my heart. Doing so is my bringing them to the Light to be healed.
Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.”
― Dr. Brené Brown,