I work a lot with folks who battle with shame. A key truth about shame is that it lies. But the lies it comes up with are super sophisticated: they are based on truth – but only a very little bit of truth. Then shame brings our focus to only see that one little bit of the truth. The problem is that when we focus only on that one little bit of the truth, it becomes a lie.
Imagine, that the larger circle is the whole truth. Work with me here… I’m a psychologist, not a graphic designer. For example, imagine that the big circle describes your whole experience as a parent. From the very beginnings of when you began to imagine being a parent to the very end of your days on this planet.
Then that one time that your child made you lose your mind after he pushed all of your buttons and showed no remorse and then smiled in response to your madness…. That’s the little red circle. (Like an ugly zit on an alabaster complexion.)
That night, after the eruption has passed, and your mind is overcome with guilt over how you responded, and suddenly you’re flooded with all the ways you could have responded that would not have incurred the judgment of your neighbors, and you are convinced that CPS is on its way to your home even now… Shame zeros in on that little red circle so you can only see your red face and only hear your screaming voice. Shame convinces you that you’re ruining your kid. Shame tells you how evil you are and how it would be better to disengage from your offspring rather than keep trying.
Now, it is true that you blew it. But it’s also true that all of us blow it. It’s also true that you’ve responded a thousand times with patience. It’s also true that God knows just how broken we are and He’s aware how we’re unable to do anything about that on our own (thus: Jesus). There’s an entire circle of truth that shame leaves out, which makes the little red circle (all by itself) a lie.
When you find yourself consumed by shame, remember that shame lies. Then look for the lie – look for the truth that’s been left out. Shame is an enemy that will choke the life out of you. Don’t let it.
Dr. Veronica Johnson, Psychologist and Co-Owner of Envision Counseling Clinic