How to Deal With Shame

Like a dog who has the demeanor of a being who did something wrong I sometimes walk around with disappointment permeating through every action I take.

photo credit Georgia Pauwels via creative commons

photo credit Georgie Pauwels via creative commons

I know there are times I wished I could brush away shame like so many seem to be able to do. I have made plenty of mistakes and poor decisions, but I also beat myself up more than I should. I allow myself to believe I can go through life without making these mistakes and without having regrets.

Growing up involves mistakes. Mistakes are messy. Looking back it’s easy to reject and suppress the feelings but mistakes are as important as achievements. When I look back on my mistakes it brings me an immense amount of grief. When you are in your late teenage years and early 20s it’s a time where mistakes happen at such a quick pace you can’t even learn from them. You can only live through them. I look back at the time in college and sometimes I look at my fraternity life and I blame the fraternity for mistakes I made. Millennials are great at blaming everyone else for mistakes and unfortunately at times I find myself slipping into this habit.

Donald Miller writes about intimacy and shame in his book, Scary Close. Good writing makes you feel less alone. This line in his book made me feel something other than loneliness as it relates to shame: “When we don’t believe we are good or lovable, we isolate.” I could list a thousand examples where isolation due to shame has played out in my life. The isolation has led to so much anxiety and stress because I felt I wasn’t good enough to do anything. I couldn’t push myself through difficult times because I was unable to share what I was going through with anyone. I was content to battle through on my own which is akin to getting into a bar brawl by yourself. The result is the same but it is much easier to hide internal wounds.

I never felt pressure to be someone who wasn’t me. But I did feel a temptation to impress people. I felt a temptation to show people I was mistake free. There was part of me which wanted to be acknowledged for making good decisions.

There is an unspoken belief out there we shouldn’t be ashamed of anything. Sometimes we are told we don’t need to be embarrassed by our actions and we are to live with no regrets. I don’t believe we should live with this mindset. Sometimes we go to the other end of the spectrum and don’t forgive ourselves. I do believe you need to stop beating yourself up. The world is full of people who have wasted their potential because they are unable to move on from past transgressions. Don’t become another one. Don’t allow shame to rob you of your future. Deal with your mistakes and move on.

    “The wise shall inherit glory, But shame shall be the legacy of fools.”
    Proverbs 3:35