Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shame, Grace And Acceptance

I've been writing quite a bit over the last few months about shame. I don't know that any of those writings will ever see the light of day. I don't know if they're meant for publication at a later date. What I do know is that writing them has been a form of therapy for me. Every time I write from a different angle or perspective, parts of me rise up that have been long buried...parts that I was unaware existed, but somehow knew needed healing.

Shame rooted itself deep within me at an early age...not because of anything I'd done, but because of who I believed I was. I wasn't aware that it was shame until about a year ago. When I realized that shame was the possible issue, I started reading about the effects of it. Almost every effect of shame had some grip on me.

The most consuming area of shame in my life has been that of spiritual/religious shame. I've never felt capable of measuring up to the holiness of God. Yet, that's what so many spiritual leaders teach: good behavior, pure thoughts = holiness. Well, if you haven't figured it out, I'm a mess who just finds it difficult to behave and have pure thoughts. {I assume that's true for most of us, even if we don't admit it.} With every act of misbehavior, and with every unpure thought, shame grew.

Over the last year, I've been working though the process of identifying the roots of shame so deeply buried in me. While I'm still working through that process, I'm beginning to look for the healing. I read something recently that may be the game-changer. In his book, Shame And Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, Lewis Smedes says:

The point is that the grace of God comes to us in our scrambled spiritual disorder, our mangled inner mass, and accepts us with all our unsorted clutter, accepts us with all our potential for doing real evil and all our fascinating flaws that make us such interesting people. He accepts us totally as the spiritual stew we are. 

We are accepted in our most fantastic contradictions and our boring corruptions. Accepted with our roaring vices and our purring virtues. We are damaged masterpieces, stunted saints; there are ogres and angels in our basements that we can hardy tell apart and that we have not dared to face up to. For the whole shadowed self each one of us is, grace has one loving phrase: you are accepted. Accepted. Accepted. Accepted.

Even as I read those words as I typed, accepted is a difficult word for me to buy...because acceptance has always been based on my behavior. I'll borrow a phrase from an old hymn: being accepted just as I am is a foreign concept to me. Although I've said it to others countless times, and have written it here on my blog many times, it's still difficult for me to sit down and live in the knowledge that God loves and accepts the whole of me.

I'd like to wrap up this post with a nice, neat bow and tell you that shame is no longer a part of me. But that's just not true. I'm finding that healing from shame may be radical and instantaneous for some, but for most, it's as much a process as the discovery of the roots of shame...


  1. Thank you for this post, Rebekah. I was wrestling through this today and figuring out how to write about it. I still feel so unaccepted most of the time. It comes out in relationships. I feel unaccepted by others. When I am dismissed by others, I wonder over my worth. I don't believe I carry the same shame as you mention here, but I wonder why I keep coming back to the same old thoughts. What is rooted so deeply in me that I can't remain simply in His acceptance of me just as I am. It is a tired old struggle that seems to take me going back to Him, leaning in and drawing deep from His presence. So I guess that is good, but the struggle does not feel good.

    I can say that I am being healed, but it is a complete process for me as well. just when I feel healed in one way, I realize I need healing in another way. Maybe I'll get the words out for that post.

    One and if you want to read that book, let me see how to loan it out. You might have to send me your email address that you use for your kindle app.

  2. I feel that way more often than not. Your "Rooted" series actually has given me the courage write through the discovery process. I agree that it's a struggle...but the writing has helped me so much. I'd actually been thinking about asking you to lunch to pick your brain about your "Rooted" series. Would you be interested?

    And, I'll send you my email address bc I'd love to read that book! Thanks!