Read along for the introduction and part 1 here.
I’m writing this to give context to my book Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom From Shame which is coming in June.
As I moved into middle and high school, shame became a familiar companion (though I couldn’t name it as such). As I feared exposure of weaknesses and social rejection, I began to withdraw. I presented as shy and quiet in the halls and classrooms of my high school. I didn’t date, not by choice but because of lack of opportunity. I distanced myself from my parents, believing that they were “uncool” and that I needed to create some space between me and them to socially survive high school. I tried to stay small and inconspicuous in high school. Don’t have the best grades, nor the worst; figure out what everyone else is wearing and copy it; do your work quietly, speak up only if necessary.
There was one oasis from shame – which for me was synonymous with the fear of rejection – and that was youth group. It was like I was a different person there. Not shy or quiet or in the background, but very much up front and involved. The difference was community – a community with shared values and a community who accepted me as I was. I had a strong group of friends, many of whom I am still in contact with today, and we were emboldened to do silly/crazy things together. We also prayed with and for each other, studied the Bible together, wrestled through hard things together – the death of classmates in a car accident, for example, and the opposition we faced as Christian high school students in public schools.
When I look back at high school, I cringe at the way shame held me back in many ways from living out of my confidence in Christ, especially in the way that I distanced myself from my parents. Yet I also am deeply grateful that I had a taste of the “unashamed” experience through youth group. This was a hint of more redemption that would come in later years.
A few things that I’d reflect on from this season as it relates to shame’s development:
- Shame comes in the wake of some type of relational pain and brokenness. For me, it wasn’t connected with my sin but more like a result of living in a world where middle school girls can be mean and high school halls can be unkind.
- Shame resilience happens through community. This community of my youth group strengthened me to be myself when I was with them, and to remember who I was and the strength God had given me through faith in Christ.
- Shame can often only be named upon reflection. I had no category for “shame” while in high school, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with it. Any place in your life where you tried to be small and inconspicuous probably points to the presence of shame.
Questions to ask in reflection:
-Are there seasons/aspects of your life where shame was present although you didn’t see it then?
-Were there tastes of community that helped fight shame? What was true about these communities?