On Shame

November 21, 2009

We’re studying shame in CPE right now. Apparently, shame is only now being studied even in the mental health field.

From CPE materials this week: “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behavior.” And what a realization for me to understand that guilt and shame are two different things. Shame: “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

Shame is the belief that we are not worth “good”; guilt is the belief that “the bad” is inconsistent with who we are in our core. If I feel guilt for eating a doughnut, I believe I am worth eating something more healthy. If I feel shame for eating a doughnut, I don’t feel I am worth eating anything more healthy, perhaps because I am worried that my spouse will not love me for being fat, or will not want to have sex with me.

Guilt can motivate long-term change; shame cannot. I’m not far enough into the cirriculum to understand how guilt might be effectively used, but my guess is that the Church and other cultural influences use shame far more than we use guilt.

“You aren’t worthy of God’s grace, therefore repent sinner.”

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Tolerance or Celebration?

November 1, 2007

I have been thinking today about a post I wrote last spring, linked here.  It is entitled “The Coming Out of the Church” and explores the relationship between Community and Justice.

If it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse, I know these issues have been beat to death in the U.S. church, but I am in a part of the country where they are very much still at play and so my daily life still reminds me how much work there is to do.  So for those of you out there who have already moved way beyond this stuff, indulge me.

Communities existing solely to perpetuate community, exist in a very particular place on Fowler’s scale of faith development.  It strikes me that many in the Anglican Communion are in this place.  (I would not put Nigeria/Uganda in this place I refer to– I think they are reacting to a much more self-interested, less developed place, trying to isolate themselves from globalization and resulting cultural change, but that’s another story.)  Certainly communities that value community for community’s sake must grow at their own pace and cannot, should not, be forced to “grow” into the next Fowler stage– but I am also just realizing that in the meantime there just may not be room for all at those tables.  Time may be the only thing that can heal that injustice.  Surely we must be diligent in shining the light of the gospel on the dark corners of the church, but those communities whose very structures are woven with distrust and even disapproval of the other will take time in combination with polity and education to change. Read the rest of this entry »

I saw For the Bible Tells Me So last night. What a great and well-needed movie!

It combines personal stories with just about all of the relevant facts and talking points that are needed in today’s struggle for equality.  It does well what I have tried for so long to do here– to articulate the connection between the persecution, injustice, hate crimes, high suicide rates, and downsides of LGBT life and the church’s persecution of us.  It even touches on the fact that the church at her worst has historically looked for an “other” to be the scapegoat for her fears and insecurities– Women, Jews, Blacks, and unfortunately that “other” happens to be LGBT people at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »

I just read this article on Gen-Y from Newsweek entitled Narcissists in Neverland: a Day of Reconing for Gen-Yers by Emily Flynn Vencat.  I tried to post a comment on it but ran into technical problems so I thought, “why not post it on my blog?”  I haven’t talked much about our post-modern condition.

What an appalling piece this is; it has no journalistic integrity.

The author spends 8 paragraphs discussing the so-called “downside” of gen-y and 1 discussing an alternative viewpoint, then finally arrives in the conclusion with an apathetic position– one of “it really isn’t any better or worse.”  Clearly she does have a position and she has dedicated the majority of her article to it.

The disconnect between the modern age and the post-modern age is striking here.  The age of the hyper-individual self which has no care for the “other” is going out with the end of the modern age, and those firmly rooted in the past are having a hard time accepting it.  When you care more about personal financial success, climbing the corporate ladder, sacrificing your own self-worth so that you can make a buck or two even if it means giving up your authenticity as a human, we are left with an empty culture based in commercialism, greed, and corruption.

When we live into our authenticity, when we look not only for who we are called to be but intrinsically work towards something bigger– looking after the entire human family– those selfish goals of personal financial success are just not as important.  The old modern attempt to root it around something as inconsequential as parental support fails to see the connection to the bigger picture, the larger human family.  It is rooted in fear, not in hope.  Are there slackers in Gen-Y?  You bet.  But there are also those intrinsically looking for something different; a different truth than the rational and ultimately selfish certitude of modernity.

I am almost 40.  I have two children and I only hope that when they are grown they will be firmly rooted in humanitarian causes, that they will care as deeply and passionately about contributing to the world as some of the people profiled unfairly in this article.


I remember in College Psychology class we were examining romantic relationships and talking about whether or not couples tended to be attracted to people who were similar to each other or to people who complemented them.

I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the outcome: most couples tend to pair up because they are similar.

I guess that’s not surprising, really.

I’m dating an anthropologist right now who has done some work in gender studies, and apparently gay couples tend to pair up in a more complementary fashion, pairing because they can learn something from the other.

I thought that was fascinating.

As I’ve discussed here repeatedly using James Fowler’s work, I truly believe that some people find it very useful and reassuring to be a part of a group that mirror their own experiences, beliefs, and values.  I don’t even doubt that such an experience is useful to them in their faith development.  The problem is that the uniformity of that kind of peer-based reassurance, so necessary for some, is smothering and unhelpful for others.

Some of us find great value in living, working, and worshipping with those who are different from ourselves, growing in faith through exposure to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of thinking that are only available in communities that are highly diverse.  Just like the story of the blind men and the elephant, we can only come up with a fuller picture of the truth by comparing notes of our experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

As I wrote a week or so ago (here and here), I am a huge fan of James Fowler.  In reading Faith Development and Pastoral Care, it occurred to me that many of his ideas can be applied to our current situation in the Anglican Communion.

I have always been interested in the concept of freedom, and the tension between free-will and predestination.  Does God have a plan for us?  If so, then do we really have any freedom?  If we have free-will, then what happens if we don’t choose to follow the plan?  Does that mean God’s plans don’t always get carried out?  Perhaps they are pointless questions, but I like the way Fowler presents some of the answers.  (I promise – I’ll get to the Communion in a minute.) Read the rest of this entry »

I thought this article from BBC news was right-on in its analysis of our Puritan roots and how we in the U.S. selectively choose what we are going to be fussy over– using the mother who allowed her 16 year old son and his friends to consume alcohol at a party (but took away all of the keys of his friends in the process) and was then sentenced to over two years in jail (as a side note, the father who provided the alcohol got 30 days– what sexism is implicit in this sentence?).

I particularly enjoyed this part:

In Virginia, like in much of the US, you can drive when you are 15, die in the army at 17 and buy a gun at 18.

But you cannot let beer or wine pass your lips legally until you are 21…

The bizarre and selective Puritanism of the US is as old as the nation.

This country boasts a multibillion dollar porn industry that dwarfs the GDP of most developing countries.

The evening news is cluttered with adverts for erectile dysfunction: “If your erection lasts for more than six hours consult a physician.”

But there were howls of outrage when the singer Janet Jackson allowed her left breast to be exposed in a “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl half-time show in 2004.

A friend of mine was lambasted by an elderly gentleman on a deserted beach in North Carolina for allowing her three-year-old son to roam naked in the sand.

Read the whole thing here.