Wash Guilt and Resist Shame

I recently stumbled upon a book called, The Power of Vulnerability by Brene’ Brown.  It seems that everyone else found out about her before me and evidently she is a beautifully strong voice in the public sphere.  As I was listening to this “shame researcher” unveil her findings, many connections popped up with things I’ve heard in the Confessional.

A message I hear over and over again is the truth that you and I, as children of God, are lovable.  We are wonderfully and fearfully made.  Who we are is not equated with what we have done but rather it is equated with the love of the Holy Trinity.  The best thing I can do for myself, for my children, for the politics of our country, for the thriving of our community is to walk around remembering with comfort, that I am God’s child (and that you are too).

The alternative to this, is shame.  In shame, I equate myself with sin.  Instead of admitting that I have done ugly, horrible and lame things, I believe that I am ugly, horrible and lame.  With shame, I am paralyzed and condemned.  With guilt, I can be forgiven, make amends or set free.  Guilt doesn’t have to stick.  Guilt can bring about change where as shame paralyzes.  Guilt is incident related, not internally related.

A few points that Brene’ mentions:

Shame breeds in secrecy.  It turns into anger, depression and bitterness.  It is contagious.  People who live wholeheartedly are able to speak openly about shame since it has little power in their lives.  In her research, again and again, Brene’ found that people who can successfully resist being caught by the power of shame believe that they are lovable and they have a place of belonging and acceptance.  

This goes hand in hand with our Catholic faith!  We are loved children of God.  We have a place in the heart of the Trinity, in the Body of Christ, in the house of God, among our fellow brothers and sisters, here and now and in heaven to come.  

Brene’s work which highlights the difference between shame and guilt partially shows why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so powerful.  Our loved nature never is changed.  Even in the midst of sin, are still his children.  We are loved.  Period.  In guilt (not shame) we are free to take an experience of something bad that we have done and say “I did that.”  I’m sorry.  And its done.  Free.  Openness, peace, confidence.  In Confession, we say this to our loving Father God through the Church (who is our understanding, relating, human family).

One of my newly favorite saints, St. Josemaria Escriva, believed that the core of “Opus Dei” (the work of God) that was taking place in his midst was regular everyday people’s deep understanding of being a child of God.  It is only from there that we are free to look at our sin and say, I’m sorry.  Our guilt is washed away.  It is from there that we can serve.  It is from there that we can play. 

So, let’s consider to day- who are you?  Shame or Child of God?  God knows the answer.  Will you let Him speak it to your heart?