Have you ever had one of those people in your life you know you are mad at, but you can’t figure out why you are upset with them? For the last several months, I have been having a conversation with God about a person exactly like that in my life. I have continued to ask God why I am upset and what my real problem with her was. Everything I was mad over seemed so trivial. Every time I asked myself the question, “You are mad over this, really?” I would have to answer, “No, but I am mad about something!!”
Tonight as a part of the homework from my professional counselor, I was reading a chapter in Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender. The chapter was on shame and how it relates to our relationships and the depravity of the human race after our fall. The chapter contrasted legitimate shame (repentance and humility over current and past sin) and illegitimate shame (caused by what we perceive to be a failure in our human dignity).
Allender points out that we feel illegitimate shame when “we are aware that we are seen as deficient and undesirable by someone whom we hope will deeply enjoy us.” He goes on to explain we can only experience shame if we are bowing down to false gods by giving humans the position only God should hold in our lives. That is the position of “determining whether or not we are acceptable.” When we give this power to someone other than God and they disappoint us, we feel shame.
Allender discusses how we build walls to protect us from shame, allowing no one to know the real us, declaring no one will ever hurt us again or perhaps striving to prove ourselves through competition or career. We often end up hating ourselves for wanting what God created us to want. We determine to quit wanting it instead of allowing God to fulfill our deepest desires for us.
When I considered shame and the role it might play in the previously mentioned relationship, I realized I simply wanted her to love, appreciate and respect me. I was not sure she did, and as a result, I was feeling really insecure. My anger towards her dissolved as I realized I was actually mad at my desire for her to accept me and label me as authentic, real and worthy of love.
Tonight I have learned the reason I could never answer the question as to why I was mad at her is because I was not mad at her. I was mad at me. Tomorrow I hope to have softer heart than I had today, knowing my desire to be loved is not a defect.
“It is I [God, the Father] who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25.
February 4, 2024
I wonder if she loves, appreciates, and respects me. I don't know who she is anymore. I don't know if I ever discovered anything more about what I was upset over. Was the real root what I thought it was that night? Anger toward myself? I don't know.
When I read this post for the first time a few days ago to decide if I wanted to keep all this past on my blog, I cringed and smiled. I cringed at some of the things Allender said and connected with others.
Where I disagree with him now would be in thinking it takes having a false god to feel disappointed in humans. I think that disappointment comes from having the real God, from knowing how intimately God wants us to connect and love each other, and the lack of the real love of God we experience from the beings made in the divine image every day of our life. Perhaps the disappointment comes from being connected to the heart of God. Perhaps its participation in divine disappointment.
But maybe he is also right. Maybe shame can only be experienced in moments of disconnection from God/Life. I wouldn't call it the worship of other gods. I would describe it as forgetfulness of Life and what Life is.
Maybe shame is a forgetfulness of the values of Paradise, of the kingdom of God described by Jesus, of the New Jerusalem. Maybe when we forget who we really are, shame whispers into our heart and tells us who Death and Destruction think we ought to be. Maybe Death and Destruction are the entities that think we need prestige more than anonymity, a retirement account more than our starving neighbor needs food, cheap products more than a poverty-stricken foreign worker needs a home.
And I wonder as I close this post: is forgetfulness sin? or did God create us to be finite and forgetful? and if God did create us finite and forgetful, is that why Jesus came to seek the lost - because they left home and forgot where it was?