Turning Backward

Turning Backward

As we continue our study of shame, guided by Released From Shame by Dr. Sandra Wilson, we are going to look backwards in order to discuss the origins of shame.

First we will briefly discuss Biblical shame.  This is relatively straightforward.  We recognize that we are weaker, more foolish, and smaller than God.  Every person has had this revelation at some point, Paul points this out at the beginning of his letter to the Romans.  No one has an excuse for denying the power of God, everyone has at some point in their life had a realization that there must be a God.  Many quickly suppress that thought or push it away or deny it, but many will contemplate that thought and come to a better understanding of our place in the universe.  God is mighty, we are small and weak, and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

Fortunately, God can.  God offers us grace through the blood of his Son Jesus.  This is the reason we can move past this kind of shame at our own weakness, because God has provided the way for us.  This is a common grace offered to all of mankind, all that is required is for us to take advantage of it by becoming a part of His people, the church.

Every one of us different, but each one of us has something else in common.  We all have someone who raised us.  It could be a parent, a sibling, a relative, or a parent-like figure, but we all have memories of interactions with those who were bigger and stronger than we were as children.  This forms the basis for biological shame: youth.

As children we were weaker and less able than many of those (older) around us.  This shame can be enlarged by negative commentary on ability.  Things like “Why do you always spill the milk,” or “Get your short legs moving” can cause children to believe that those things are their fault.  The good thing about this kind of shame is that the basis for it is removed with age.  As we grow we become more and more able, we become stronger, we can do things that we couldn’t before and this kind of down-talk goes away.  However, there is a second kind of shame from our childhood that can be longer lasting.

Something else that we all have in common is that we were children at one point.  Life is very different for a child.  A child’s entire reality is a picture that is hung in his parents’ frame.  Parents have an extremely strong impact on how a child views the world.  Children are not able to look outside of themselves as well as adults can, empathy is harder to come by as every child views himself as the center of the world.

This centralization forms the “soil” that this binding shame grows in.  Because the child views himself as the center of the world in which he has great agency, the things that happen to him occur due to his own volition.  In reality this isn’t true.  A child’s parents have the real power in the relationship.  Parents treating children poorly is the “seed” that grows in the soil.  In the child’s mind, the parents are good people and the child brought the treatment on themselves by their poor behavior or actions or deceptions.  This leads to a kind of shame that causes the child to view themselves as “bad” in order to preserve their parents’ “goodness.”  This can lead to a much more lengthy and detrimental kind of shame.

We will be discussing these more in the weeks to come, but for now let’s suffice it to say that looking backwards at ourselves and the forces in play around us can lead us to maybe recognize the potential causes of our shame.  Only when we recognize where our shame comes from can we begin to unwind and release it!  Fortunately, we have a heavenly Father who is willing and able to help us to strengthen us as we search ourselves for answers.


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