Shame on You

by Joanie Butman

In light of last week’s post regarding guilt and shame, I laughed out loud as a perfect illustration of their difference arrived in the local paper’s police blotter. The headline read, Blonde Steals Largest Swimsuit from Store. She was further identified as a heavyset woman – a conspicuous distinction in this town. Thank goodness she wasn’t brunette or I’d be under suspicion!

The article went on to say that “the stolen item was the only one in size 16, which is the largest they carry.” I was stunned and immediately thought, “They’re fat shaming her.” The store manager was then quoted, “What if we caught her? Wouldn’t she have felt humiliated?” By which – the theft or her hefty girth? Maybe that’s why she stole the swimsuit in the first place; she was too ashamed to purchase a size 16! A comical example for sure, but it illustrates how easy it is to target the person as opposed to the action. Why would the size of the woman or the suit be relevant in reporting the theft? Perhaps the store manager considered fat shaming a just punishment.

“Shame on You!” is a frequently heard idiom (or curse) and one I didn’t give much thought to until I heard Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability. Ms. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston specializing in shame resilience. Her famous talk went viral catapulting her (and her research) into the limelight. Clearly she hit a nerve with her speech because it’s rated one of the most popular TED Talks with over 20 million views.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s fat shame or some other deep-seeded shame planted years ago into the fabric of your being. It’s my guess we all have something buried within that stifles our ability to experience the abundant life God planned for us. Last week my friend corrected me for using deep-seeded vs. deep-seated. I changed it, but the more I thought about it during the week I realized I did mean deep-seeded because do you know what happens when you plant a seed too deep? It fails to flourish.

That’s the damage the nuns I mentioned last week inflicted. They sowed seeds of shame and condemnation so deep in my soul my relationship with God couldn’t grow. I left their tutelage convinced I was hopeless and on the fast track to hell. Let me tell you something: When you think you’re going to hell anyway, the decision to have a good time on the way down seemed like the logical choice at the time. So that’s exactly what I did for a while, leaving me feeling frustrated, restless and empty. I knew I was missing something but couldn’t identify what ‘it’ was. Turns out it wasn’t an ‘it’ but a He.

Thank goodness I was led to some incredibly faithful and joy-filled spiritual mentors that brought those hidden seeds of shame into the light so they could receive the fertilization of God’s love and forgiveness. It was only then that I could mature and receive the freedom available through Jesus Christ. When covered in His grace rather than smothering layers of shame, you can’t help but blossom with an unshakeable inner joy, peace and beauty regardless of your size because God looks at your heart not your waistline.

Choosing to exhume those unhealthy seeds isn’t comfortable or pain free. Neither is it a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process of transforming your mind by challenging long-held beliefs about yourself, about God and about your relationship with Him. I can’t say it’s an easy road, but I promise you choosing to start the journey will be the beginning of a great adventure.