How I am rising above shame (and the winner of Fight Back with Joy)

The past week was full. Full of tears, grief, sorrow, and pain. Full of joy, laughter, hope, and excitement. Full of new people, new friends. Abundant. Overflowing.

At times I was overwhelmed, felt behind, wanted to crawl in a hole to sleep, because it was almost too much for this girl who gets over-stimulated. And in all of the goodness and pain (which are not mutually exclusive) I knew I had forgotten something.

fightbackwithjoyI forgot to announce the winner of Margaret’s book. (see below)

Now, this might be a small thing most people would not realize, but to me, in my desire to do things right, shame creeps in. Failure speaks: “You screwed up. Who do you think you are? How could you forget something like that?

I have a choice: I can either listen to the shame, absorb its message of failure, become paralyzed in guilt, horrified by remorse. OR I can accept my inaction. I can acknowledge that I did not follow through, apologize (I’m sorry, my friends, I am), forgive myself, and work to rebuild my integrity.

As I choose the second path, I also choose to see who I am. In the face of shame which puts me down, I can stand and acknowledge how God has built me up. This work is difficult when I am tempted to see only the negative in me. But God has created me and his works are wonderful. I am “wonderfully complex” (Psalm 139:14 NLT). I am vulnerable. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am loving. I am passionate. I am wise.

With humility I see both of my failures and my gifts. I offer them to God. Use them. May I be a blessing to someone today.

What is shame speaking to you, today? What is the truth about who you are? Hold them both in your hands before God. You are his masterpiece. He has created you to do good. And that work He has began in you? He will complete it. Amen.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

 


Thank you everyone who shared your stories of grief and joy on my blog two weeks ago. You blessed me with your truth.

The Winner of Fight Back with Joy is Lynnae McCoy. Congratulations, Lynnae!

 

Why Sympathy Spurs Shame, but Empathy Empowers

Day 28 of 31 Days of Connecting

When Jack was 3 or 4 months old, we went to a family friend’s house for lunch. Not knowing them well, I mostly kept to myself, hiding myself in Jack’s needs. When he finally went down for a nap, I had no choice but to engage in conversation with these strangers (commence awkward introvert small talk). After a little while, the mother asked me how things were going as a new mom. She asked, “Have you been brought to tears?”

Relief filled my heart that perhaps someone might understand what it was like to have a son who had colic, who knew that emotional fatigue overwhelmes a new mama, and that sometimes the only thing to do was to let out a sob or two, so I responded emphatically, “Oh Yes! Just last week, I burst into tears when I was nursing Jack.”

“Really?”

Her surprised and inquisitive look let me know I had it all wrong. I could sense pity coming from her gaze, but I didn’t want pity, I wanted understanding. I wanted to know things could be ok. That all moms shed these tears. Yet in that moment I only received: “Really?”

Ashamed, I looked at my feet, mumbled something about, “Don’t all moms?” and quickly changed the topic or perhaps even left the room.

Writer, speaker, and shame researcher Brené Brown has helped me understand that in that moment what I wanted empathy, but what I received was sympathy. Brown wrote this:

“[Sympathy says], ‘I’m over here and you’re over there. I’m sorry for you. I’m sad for you. AND, while I’m sorry that happened to you, let’s be clear: I’m over here.’ This is not compassion.

“In most cases, when we give sympathy we do not reach across to understand the world as others see it. We look at others from our world and feel sorry or sad for them… When our need for empathy is met with sympathy, it can often send us deeper into shame – we feel even more alone and separated. Empathy is about connection; sympathy is about separation.” (I thought it was just me (but it isn’t), 2007, p 51)

day 28

Whenever I meet a new mom, I find myself longing for her to feel safe with me, to know that though I haven’t been in her exact situation, I get it. Sometimes we are brought to tears. Sometimes those tears don’t stop. Sometimes we want to walk away for awhile. She needs to know that she is not alone, but that someone, somewhere is sitting with her. Loving her. Shedding tears with her.

Then, through that empathy, maybe that mama can be encouraged, empowered to continue on.

<<To hear Brown speak on this topic, and to see some great animation, click here.>>