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How Do You Get the Shame Off?


Make-up is often a fascination with little people. Lips can be too. Ever had a baby tug on yours? I can recall watching my mother apply lipstick to her lips and thinking it looked like amazing stuff. Unfortunately, I chose to apply her lipstick to a treasured chair in the living room. Guess what my mother had to say about that? "Shame on you!" Her words were probably intended to teach me a lesson: "Leave the redecorating to the more qualified. Better yet, leave Mommy's lipstick alone!" The lipstick incident was not an isolated occasion; as a child, I heard her proclamation more than once.

It became a challenge for me over time to figure out how to get the shame off of me once it had been applied repeatedly. Sadly, its effect went well below the surface. Shame is a powerful weapon we humans wield. In the fifth grade I endured the ridicule of my classmates when I unknowingly went to the blackboard with the back of my dress unzipped. Do you think I was eager to return the next day? Hardly. Obviously, that experience left a scar. And when the scars pile up it's hard to move with much confidence. And when shame becomes a regular part of our wardrobe, it's hard to go through a day with much if any grace.

In her remarkable book Daring Greatly (2012), Brene' Brown introduces a chapter titled "The Vulnerability Armory" with these words, "As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose and connection - to be the person whom we long to be - we must be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen."

It's a slippery slope, isn't it? To have enough self-confidence to move through life but not so much we slide into arrogance. To learn what choices and behaviors are most workable for us and others so that relationships may thrive but to not be crushed in spirit and compromised in the process. Today is Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent is upon us. And it is a stretch of time that bids us examine our lives honestly, fully, deeply, and see what in us might need some adjusting. Some realigning. Some repairing.

Rob Bell reminds us in Velvet Elvis that Jesus' messages begin with a single-word invitation: "Return." Sure, some translations say "Repent" but at the heart of what Jesus encourages us to do is, as Bell states it, "Return to the people we were originally created to be... The pure, whole people God originally intended us to be, before we veered off course. Somewhere in you is the you who you were made to be. We need you to be you. We don't need a second anybody. We need the first you."

To that I say AMEN! and to that I would add that the you you were made to be looks and moves best without a shred of shame. So, let's return to the One best known for realignment and repair and see how we may become! It will likely take some getting used to, this being vulnerable business, but the movement is true and the grace to be trusted!

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