Sunday, May 19, 2013

Never Covered With Shame

I am now officially allowed to write what I think about BrenĂ© Brown's book Daring Greatly. A few weeks back, I broke one of my own sacred rules and commented on it when I hadn't fully read it yet. Don't you just hate it when people do that? Yeah, me too. 

But now I have read it. Cover to cover. Even the appendix about her research methodology. It is as good as I said it was. (Whew!) It connected the dots on so many puzzling, hard, painful relational experiences I've had. And it is soooooo hopeful.

It also raises a lot of questions for me that it doesn't go on to answer. (I'm not complaining about that. I think it's a case of the author having a very clear idea of the boundaries of her research and not overstepping them.)

I hinted at one of those questions in my angry rant, and I want to start unpacking it here. Right now, it feels like I'll be unpacking stuff from this book for a long time to come...

A Shame Delivery Vehicle

My husband likes to say that celery sticks, raw broccoli and baby carrots have one primary function: to serve as ranch dressing delivery vehicles. As it turns out, in our culture, faith has been hijacked and turned into a shame delivery vehicle. (So says Brown's research, which highlights religion as one of 12 primary sources of shame in people's lives.)

Where does that come from?!

Psalm 34:5 says, "Those who look to [the Lord] are radiant. Their faces are never covered in shame."

If that's true, will somebody please tell me how our preaching, our worship and our discipleship have become contributors to what Brown calls "a culture of scarcity" that constantly tells us we're not enough?

Not thin enough.

Not successful enough.

Not smart enough.

Not good enough.

Ahhhh... now I begin to see where the hideous lie begins.

For we are not good enough. But that doesn't mean what you might think it means.

Not Good Enough

Near the core of Christian theology is the idea that humankind—every last one of us—is fallen, broken, sinful, bent. The accusation that we are not good enough is so easy to believe because, in one sense, it's true. 

We sin. We are sinful. We have no hope for rescuing ourselves. In the dark, quiet places of our hearts, we all know this. And our faces are covered with shame.

If we stop there, it's easy to see why most folks have gotten the idea that God is the giant angry parent in the sky, pouring on the shame. Heaping on the guilt trip. Letting us know that we are not—nor will we ever be—good enough.

It's easy to imagine God this way, because too many of us have experienced this very reaction from our parents or from our churches.

But that image is wrong.

You want to know what God's reaction to our not-enough-ness really looks like?

It looks like this.

He runs to us.

When we come home stinking like pig slop, having wasted our inheritance and practicing our grovel-grovel-grovel-shame-on-me speech, he runs to us and embraces us.

Romans 5:8 says it this way: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The way the Jesus Storybook Bible tells it, we are lovely because he loves us


Because he loves us. 

(By the way, the drawing above of the Father in the Prodigal Son story is also from the Jesus Storybook Bible and it has completely captured me.) 

A Place of Worthiness

Brown notes repeatedly that of the hundreds of people she interviewed, only one factor separated those who live under the crushing weight of shame from those who live with their hearts intact (the "wholehearted," as she puts it). You want to know what it is? 

Simply this: those who live wholehearted lives believe that they are worthy of being loved.

That's all it takes to defeat shame.

And if, deep in your heart, you doubt your own worthiness, know this: You are lovely because he loves you. And he runs to you.

Taking Religion to Task

If this extravagant, sacrificial love hasn't been your primary experience with Christianity, you're not alone. And where we have wrongly spread an unbiblical message of shame, the church has a lot of damage to go back and undo. 

So let me start to do my part by sharing these beautiful words from Addie Zierman
In the end, the Gospel story is a shattering of all the formulas. It is a God who walks through the dirt, whose Love is big enough to cover the broken, empty places of the whole wide world. Whose Goodness is strong enough to cover our failures. 
It is a God who died to make us enough and who defeated death to give us Life, and you don’t have to be good. You just have to step into it. 
The day breaks, and it is grace, and you can’t earn it at all. 
You are already here. 
Stand in the middle of it and look up.

What would standing in the middle of God's grace and looking up look like for you?

Part 1: Kicking Shame in the Teeth


  1. I would be curious to know how Brene Brown decided to call those who don't live with a "crushing weight of shame" "wholehearted." You rephrase that as "those who live with their hearts intact."

    The reason I'm curious is that as soon as I heard Brene Brown use "wholehearted" in her TED talk, I thought of Matt. 6:21-24: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." (ESV)

    Let me make clearer where "wholehearted" appears in Matt. 6:21-24. In verse 22 we English speakers read the phrase, "If your eye is healthy." In Greek the word for "healthy" is "haplous." Here specifically Jesus means "healthy" as in "good" or "doing what it's supposed to," but in a wider sense (not just of eyes), "haplous" means "simple, single" or "whole." A good eye doesn't see double.

    But one of my professors pointed out that the intriguing thing about the "healthy eye" of Matt. 6:22-23 is that Jesus places this illustration in the middle of talking about the heart: What's your treasure? What master are you serving?

    It makes sense to me to connect a heart not enslaved to shame with a healthy eye because one thing that sets off shame for me is being pulled between expectations. When I'm concentrating on one thing and confident that that task is what I'm to be doing right now, then I'm not ashamed. I am ashamed when I'm doing something but I feel I should have gotten it done some time ago & should be doing something else. My solution for this is to -- well, I called it being wholehearted before now -- to make up my mind what I should be doing & stick to that plan. The solution is to have a single eye, to just keep looking at what I should be looking at. The solution is to decide what my master would have me do and keep reminding my heart of that.

  2. "The solution is to decide what my master would have me do and keep reminding my heart of that."

    I love it.

  3. FINALLY downloaded it. :o). It was so lovely seeing you, friend.

    1. I can't wait to hear what you think. It was so good to see you!

  4. Did Brene Brown make any comments on how, in our culture, a lot of humor has to do with shame?

    I'm thinking mostly of how some humor arouses shame, but people think it's funny.
    There's also the kind of humor that's doing something shameful & pretending that it's funny.

    Or am I just super-sensitive to this, and other people don't notice it so much?