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Saturday, September 8, 2012

What do you think of when you hear the word shame? Embarrassment? A guilt-ridden conscience? Disgrace? Modesty? Humility? Self-restraint?

The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that the early root of the word shame as meaning “to cover.”

Indeed, the idea of shame is as old as creation – or almost. If you flip to the front of your Bible, you'll find God's ideal state for marriage:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 2:24-25
Now, just an apple later Adam and Eve come to this:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Genesis 3:7
Shame crashes into our human existence for the first time and they immediately cover up. Yeah, I’d say shame and covering are pretty closely linked, and not just etymologically.

The thing with shame is that it cannot coexist with intimacy. It’s just not possible. That’s because shame causes you to cover up. It causes you to try to run away from who you think you are or who you think you are not. Shame’s accusations say you are defined by your failings, your weaknesses and your inadequacies.

I say that intimacy is “being fully known and yet completely loved.” Intimacy is being naked without shame. That’s how it was always meant to be – with God – and in your marriage. That's why shame destroys and blocks intimacy.

Shame’s ugly tentacles can reach into every corner of your marriage: 
  • Shame over aspects of your physical appearance will cause you to reject your lover’s fawning compliments, to hide your body from him or her, to lower your self-confidence and to steel the freedom we should have to fully enjoy each other’s bodies.
  • Sexual shame can come from a wrong mindset about sex (“sex is bad or evil”) or from past sin or abuse. Shame over sex will hinder the physical intimacy in your marriage and make it a wedge between you and your spouse instead of the deep expression of being one flesh that it is meant to be. (Incidentally, I get a huge number of search engine hits from people searching sexual shame.)
  • Shame over financial or career or other mistakes will greatly damage the emotional intimacy in your marriage. It can drive you to withdraw emotionally and even lead to depression. The generalized sense of worthlessness that your mistakes can bring about blocks out the love your spouse is offering you.
  • Shame over aspects of your personality or intelligence is often brought about by past hurtful words or actions from friends, family or others close to you. “I am stupid.” “I am loud.” “I am a wallflower.” They all ultimately say the same thing. “I am unlovable.” "I am not good enough."
Do you see why I HATE shame? It’s a marriage killer like few other things are!

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in shame of one kind or another? 

Well, think about it, and leave a comment with your suggestions. Then come back for my next post where I’ll try to answer that very question myself.

In the meantime, check out this video. It is a follow up to Dr Brown’s famous TED Talk that I’ve shared here before on vulnerability. Check that one out too if you haven’t seen it. (Thanks to Gina Parris for making me aware of this newer one.)


Beth Templeton said...

So many good observations Scott. The definition of shame is really interesting, and helpful. I love your insight that intimacy is the opposite of shame, or that they cannot coexist. This applies to all areas of life I think.

Scott said...

Thanks Beth. You are exactly right. Shame can reach into any area of our lives - and it has the same disastrous effect there.

Rich said...

I really enjoyed the videos and sent them to my wife. She liked them so much that she ordered some of the books from the speaker and I think some videos.

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