Monday, January 25, 2010

Shamed Conviction

This morning was rushed. I ironed my spouse’s shirt and then proceeded to my own outfit. As I ironed the black slacks, I noticed that the material ironed differently than the last time I had pressed them.

When I dressed I discovered why. They were a pair that was more form-fitting than I normally preferred. The choice was skip breakfast to iron the right pair or grab a sweater that covered my posterior.
I love breakfast so the sweater worked for me.

I arrived at work and set about my daily routine, careful to don my sweater when walking through the office.

Mid-morning I rushed to the powder room. While washing my hands, I saw, to my chagrin that I had arrived sans sweater. At that moment I thought, “I feel convicted about these pants.”

A light turned on in the recess of my brain. I didn’t feel convicted. I felt shamed.
Shame had been meticulously and lovingly hardwired into my psyche by an abusive pastor (my story) Shame was my abuser’s choice tool to keep me subjected.

Eugene Peterson explains it succinctly in the preface to Galatians:
“When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place”.

–The Message, Re-Mix-

I had not set out to wear pants that outlined my figure more clearly. I certainly had no intention of seducing someone with my less-than-svelte figure.

And yet, standing in the bathroom, I felt shamed.

I felt shame because I had been taught that clothes that don’t hide every outline of your body are evil. Those that wear them do so because they are focused on lust and what they can procure with their body.

Recognizing the feeling as shame and not as conviction, I set about re-wiring my brain. And for someone fed almost daily for two decades on shame and guilt it is no easy process.

I realize now that my abuser relished the effects that shame produce:

Shame drives you away from the reassuring knowledge that God loves you and has provided a covering for your sins.

Shame gifts you with an overwhelming need to do penance.

Shame chains you to the person that tells you they can sway an angry god to your favor.

My abuser profited royally from the shame she wreaked upon her congregation: she shamed into working in her cleaning business. She shamed into leaving actual family behind to choose her as ‘the true family of God’. She shamed till she caused a young man to choose death over life.
Shame is deadly, not godly.

One of my favorite blogs,My Teen Mania Experience said it best:

“Last time I checked, the only person who uses shame as a tool is the devil. Jesus came to set us free from shame.

The blogger goes on to describe his experience:

"Falling asleep in class isn't even a sin! No wonder interns despair so deeply when they commit an actual sin. If there is great shame in sleeping in class, there must be even greater shame in real sin. (Of course there is no mention about whether driving interns to exhaustion is sin.)”
(Click Shame on You to read full article.)

If someone is using shame to “save your soul” take my advice and run as far away from them as possible.

Further Reading:
Mice in Our Couches
How Does Jesus Love You

"Prayer" by the_spainard in photobucket

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