What does that word do to you may I ask?
Does it conjure up thoughts and then feelings about a time or event in your life that at some point even now causes a shame response?
I know that shame is not necessarily a bad thing. Shame, or the knowledge of the consequence of it can serve its purpose I suppose when one is weighing whether or not their actions could be shameful in someone’s eyes? But whose eyes count? Is it something that we carry with us in adulthood from events that happened while still maturing? I have no real answers to any these questions for anyone but myself. Especially I would never condone that what I am feeling or writing about how I feel or think is the best for anyone else. I don’t. I don’t because I come from a different history, I have different beliefs and thoughts on things than anyone else. Just as you do. We may be like-minded in many ways BUT WE STILL ARE Individuals with individual outlooks.
Shame is something that will cause us to have to pay for the excess baggage. Its expensive. It’s a cost that is likely to cause extreme hardship if allowed to continue to fester. Shame comes in many forms, comes from many things, and is insidious if left alone. Especially the shame that you have had no say in. Shame that was being played out like a maestro orchestrating an orchestra.
I know shame well. And shame knows me well. I am going to add a frame of reference to this post that is rarely my custom. Referencing my past, or my childhood; I’ve spoken about it in simplistic good terms before; the good out of the bad because 99.9% of my time that is just how I see my childhood. There were both. Just as there is in every one of us. For the purpose of this post and for my own journey I hope that you’ll indulge me and maybe even relate.
THE REASON FOR THE SEASON OF LENT
This quote from the Preface of Lent may seem surprising to those people who are accustomed to thinking of Lent solely as a time of penance: “Each year we are given this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed”.
Lent is certainly a period marked by somber seriousness, but contrary to certain stereotypes it is also a time of joy
We become aware of our sinfulness and our shames, however not by remaining fixated on ourselves, but by contemplating the love of Spirit. The readings for Mass during Lent certainly denounce sin, but at the same time Mass proclaims the divine mercy which is about forgiveness,
For those who do not know I am a recovering Irish Catholic. I mean no disrespect or offense to those who are practicing Catholics, it is my personal spiritual choice based on personal history that made no sense to me to continue being under the direction of The Church that protects physical and sexual abusers. Priests who have obviously disobeyed their vows and promise to God. My abuse albeit not by a man of the clergy but was inflicted by one who should have been an even more trusted member of my family-the paternal grandfather. I was barely 8 yrs old.
Suffice it to say that I find no purpose in regurgitating up the details to be read here. I shall take no part in allowing anyone to “Float their boat” by reading a post here that is intended to help, not hurt. The only thing needed to be known is this was my start to shame. Something that I did not have control over, yet all the same I wore the shame of it like a red scarlet letter.
Growing up, and then growing out of an alcoholic home where parents had their heads in some other game than parenting, seeing violence, arguments were the norm and drunk parents at any time was my fear. I could not and would not let my friends see it. I would try to protect them from it just as hard as I tried to protect my baby brother of 4 years from it. But I could not. This was beyond my control and led me to believe that this was also my shame. I vowed to never as an adult allow events and other people to have power over my life again. The shame of others would never be mine again. I could master my culpability in life, but own no one else’s.
It’s taken me 50 plus years to realize that shame causes guilt of the hidden kind and that I don’t have control and never will. As long as I let whatever happens around me to engulf me spiritually I would continue to try to make it my own. AS long as I allowed my own children who are adults now to accept their shame and guilt I am keeping them from owning what they need to heal.
Spending time on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent reading and praying I asked Spirit to help me quiet the chatter in my mind, and to still my heart so that I may get closer to letting go of what does not serve me. What can I do to bring my mind more open to Spirit? What can I do to lend my heart to letting go of all old pains? What is keeping me from that complete openness that I will no longer need childish things? Letting go of guilt and shame whether I own it or whether it belongs to someone else will help guide my quest.
I need to let them all go and take down the screen that has helped me keep a guard up around my heart. Hanging on to shame is hanging to resentments, it’s akin to hanging on to an old lover who abuses your right to be happy. I can see ever so clearly now that what I held onto as baggage was a way for me to remain a victim. To hang on to events that are past whether years ago, or yesterday, they only keep a screen of falseness up between myself and the spirit of contentment in my life.
Taking responsibility for events not in my power were bricks that through the years the mortar began to crumble. I had no idea why only that I knew there was this hole in my heart where I placed all shame. Shame has been keeping me from a lot of things for a long time. I did not feel worthy despite all the teachings I was forgiven. I had no idea I also had to forgive myself.
I need to let it all go. I’ve hung on too much too long, so long that I feared the idea of being without this coat of hidden shame. This is what happens when you own something too long that never belonged to you in the first place. Yet I stumble, I look over my shoulder, I run the other way and shame wants to follow. I will have to master this letting go.
Letting go of shame may sound difficult, it may not even be what is thought of as the typical fasting for Lent. Yet it feels so right in my heart, and my mind knows how much I need to let it all go.
This Reason For The Season of Lent I am giving up my shame. Letting it all go and turning it over to something far more powerful than myself. I will cleanse all my resentments away, all the shame will leave my heart. Not just f several weeks until Easter Sunday, but for always. My heart will no longer be abuzz with painful shame, and my mind’s self chatter of times gone will be free to be open to just today. Just this moment. Living in splendor with a whole heart, with a mind that can relish the now, and a spirituality that is quiet, true and free.
Goodbye Old Shame, it’s been real.