Posts Tagged ‘shame’

Return to Intimacy 3

07/11/2011 2 comments

I was in the grocery store the other day and a little tot was giving his mother a hard time. She scolded him so severely that everyone turned to look. The mother didn’t seem to care what other people thought. She wanted her son to make her look good in public and he was not doing that at all. Her shame over his behavior caused her to shame him in public. This is the way shame is passed from generation to generation. Shame begets shame.

Some of those who turned to notice may have thought the mother was justified in her action. Others may have felt the kid deserved more than scolding. Still others, like me, felt compassion for the little one who simply needed a little positive attention. His mother was actually ignoring him until the volcano erupted. He really needed her to tell him it is okay to be a child and have needs, even though the need can’t be met right now.

I have met with many adults who were shamed as children. They had felt like something was basically wrong with being a child with needs. They began to feel like the need was a bad thing so they suppressed it. Any need for attention seemed to indicate they were flawed as a person. Children seldom blame their parents; they assume they deserve the shaming. The child’s solution was to shut down to the need.

Later in life they began to develop ways of relating that keep others at a distance. They lacked the ability to become intimate with anyone. But the need for intimacy did not go away when they suppressed it. It simply looked for alternate ways to fill the vacuum. Sometimes it was food, sometimes sex, work, education or sports etc. Others began to beat themselves up emotionally for being such a bad person or to attack others because it made them feel powerful (like the mother above).

But none of these alternatives will ever fill the void. The only thing that can bring fulfillment is an intimate relationship with another person. Here is the problem. Intimacy is only possible when both parties are open and willing to be seen for who they really are. If you are open to me while I am closed to you we can never experience real close. No matter how open you are, I will not receive you because I am afraid you will see my shame.

So what is the solution? We must find a person we can trust to accept us even if they see our shame. This brings up another problem. If the other person is hiding something and only appears to be open, you can be sure he or she will react if you get close enough to see their shame. Many live their lives discovering this truth over and over as they try to find a fulfilling relationship. They end up being shamed again.

There is one person who has proven his willingness to embrace us with our shame. Our Father God sent his Son to prove his openness. At the cross we see him taking our shame on himself and giving us his honor. Here is the only person you can trust to receive you unconditionally.

His openness will not help us if we are not open and honest with him. He knows love cannot be forced. We must walk into his open, welcoming arms. There we will find what we have been looking for all our lives.