To understand self-forgiveness, you must be willing to taste shame. Like dark chocolate, you can’t appreciate the sweetness without the bitterness. Are you willing to explore the texture of shame – how it was first created, how it is sustained? Most of us spend years chipping away at the stone prison of shame built around our hearts. But are we using the right tools?
We all enter this world hungry for love. From infancy, we learn which behaviors will produce food, clothing, shelter, and connection. But if we say or do anything that goes against the tribe, we might invite shame into our diets early on. It becomes a regular staple our caregivers feed us, and what we continue to feed ourselves for years.
Shame grows from the desire to be loved, to belong. Unfortunately, it connects us to the tribe by a tenuous thread that can snap the moment we feel we have failed in some way. We spend more time in social isolation than connection through chords of compassion and a true sense of belonging.
There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt implies a feeling towards a behavior. ‘I’m feeling bad about something I did.’ Shame refers to our core self. “I’m feeling bad about who I am.’
How do we heal shame? We need to return to mindfulness, kindness, and shared humanity. We need to feel every difficult emotion disguised as demons knocking at our heart’s door. We must taste the bitterness and sweetness. Practicing in community certainly helps. In the loving presence of a committed community, we can share our secret shame. We can’t heal it if it’s hidden. We can’t feel it if it’s forbidden.
There’s something new about the world
the day after it rains.
It’s as if an artist
erased the whole palette,
then redrew homes, the trees, the sky
with bolder outlines, and brightened
them with new paint
more vibrant than the old colors.
What if we were all artists
washing away old images of ourselves
with tears of forgiveness?
What if you could see
past outer appearances
and your heart was
your only canvas?
Would you imbue it
with the shades of your love,
or tear it to pieces
your number of self-judgments?
There's something new about the world
the day after it rains.
An artist erases the whole palette
for the chance to begin again.
With the first true rain of the season here in northern California, may we wash away the heart’s canvas of shame. May we all begin again.
"You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."
(post inspired by MSC Teacher Training on Shame)