I was reading an article on a new city ordinance allowing people to walk their dogs on trails in our city parks and came across this quote: “I find that shame is a wonderful thing.”
That was one of my city council members, apparently talking about how to encourage people to follow the law and clean up after their dogs. He shall go unnamed here.
I struggled to finish reading the last paragraph of the article. Is shame the best solution to messes in city parks? I don’t know, but I do know shame is not a wonderful thing.
I’ve gotten some tough feedback on my writing this year. So tough, I don’t feel like I can talk about it. I’m ashamed of it. I spend time and conversations trying to figure out if the problem was my writing or the person who penned the comments. My writing friends tell me it wasn’t my writing, that those comments were about their author. But months after the fact, I still read a quote like that and stop in my tracks, thinking about what shame wants for my writing.
Shame wants to stop me from seeking any help with my writing. It shouts whatever comments are offered through a megaphone like never before.
Shame would stop me from preparing for the conference I’ll attend next month. It insists I can’t present my writing like I believe in it when I know how it may be received.
Shame closes the door to writing new fiction, asking, If it’s just going to be rejected and disliked, why bother?
Shame discourages sending a new manuscript to my agent. What if he doesn’t like it, either? Shame asks, Then where will you be?
Sisters, if those questions resonate with you, let me tell you right where I’ll be, right where you’ll be when you’re rejected, stepped on, and disregarded: still safe in the hands of our Savior.
I don’t believe my writing is above reproach by any means, and I still seek feedback from trusted critique partners. But when feedback of any kind is given without the right heart, without the measure of grace and encouragement, it produces shame. Contrast that with our Father, who instead of goading us with shame, calls us deeper with grace. As His followers, we should do the same for others.
And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, NET
Yet, of course, we will still have those who would resort to shame. Maybe even unknowingly, they pelt us with criticism upon criticism and don’t lower their voice to the gentle tones of grace. They tell us they’re making us better or that we should have thicker skin. Shame refuses to take responsibility for the hurt it causes.
Our instinct–or mine, anyway–is to curl up into knots of shame and doubt. But instead, we are called to pick up our sword and fight against it.
Guard. Like a linebacker guards the quarterback. Like a solider guards his country. Like an officer guards his community. Like a lion guards her young.
Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17, NET
We war against shame with the promises of God. We are redeemed, called, and justified.
Jesus knows human shame tactics. He’s been through the worst of them, and He rose with new life that he now offers us. Life to overcome shame, love to relegate shame to the realm of the irrelevant.
As for me, I’m still prepping for the conference and I just sent a manuscript to my agent yesterday. I have a short story in the works. I’ve struggled with shame, but the biggest shame of all? That would be letting shame win.
Since we’re fighting shame with the promises of God, what verses to do fall back on to fight shame?