We’ve all experienced it.
- There’s something(s) in your past that has haunted you.
- It was something that you said.
- It was something that you did.
- It was something you ignored that you regret.
- I’m talking about shame.
- What is the price of shame? How does it rule us when we allow it to? Why do we do it?
As we sit here is the wake of an unprecedented US Presidential Election, we’ve all seen a great deal of behaviors that could invoke a sense of shame. I, myself, haven’t always exhibited behaviors of which I am proud. For years, I allowed many of those memories to limit who I was and allowed my past to define my present (and limit my future).
One of the best lessons I have learned in my life came from a friend who had called me out on an infraction. After the confrontation, my friend said “This is done, and we never have to talk about it again.” Those words spoke volumes to me, because they offered up forgiveness and forward movement. Once the past is behind you, and you have genuine remorse for your actions (and made amends, where possible), you are allowed to move forward without shame. This is not as easy as it sounds. Shame likes us. Rather, shame likes owning us. It likes to set up house in our minds and serve a constant role to remind us that we are less than we would like to be. That is not what forgiveness looks like.
Shame, though, is not your friend. Shame is your most powerful enemy, because it has kept tabs on every mistake, every word, every deed, and every wrong you’ve ever committed. Shame doesn’t want to co-exist with you. It wants to rule you, and we are not meant to be ruled by shame. We are meant to learn from our mistakes and become better people. We are meant to transcend our former selves and do better. We are meant to be forgiven, first by ourselves, and then by others.
If you’re caught in a shame spiral and just keep circling around in that cesspool, you owe it to yourself and the people in your life to put a stop to it. If you struggle to end it yourself through forgiveness and reparation, then seek the help of a professional. There’s no shame in that, and it could help you to start fresh without a yoke of shame around your neck.
If you doubt the power of shame or its price, I encourage you to take time to watch this Ted Talk with Monica Lewinsky. Watch it with an open mind and with empathy. It is powerful stuff.
Last thought… If any of this sounds preachy or condescending, it is not meant to. If you struggle or have struggled with shame, you are not alone. None of us is. Tomorrow Begins Today.