I see you had a blast with your family last weekend. Here’s something you didn’t count on unwrapping this Happy Holidays Season: your shame-based identity. You know…that assurance that lingers beneath the surface of your thoughts?
I meant to ask…how’s that constant state of self-criticism going? Not like you don’t get enough of it from your boss. It helped that your parents used humiliation tactics to discipline you and your siblings. Mother does know best—you can’t do anything right.
You always were insignificant. No wonder kids teased you in grade school, and why they always chose you last in P.E. My favorite: the time you peed your pants in first grade near the end of recess, and you had to walk down the hall with wet pants to the restroom in front of all those laughing finger-pointing fifth graders. Poor thing. Since then, you can’t shake the sense that you possess a fundamental flaw.
If it had ended in grade school, one could chalk it up to kids being mean. But what do you make of those unkind words people say about you even now? Of course, you have no proof. But the whispers and giggles from coworkers who stop talking the moment you approach speak for themselves. Those bits of gossip make you stew for hours at home, thinking about what you’ll say the next time you see them. (Who needs school bullies when you can bully yourself?) You could also employ character assassination—works for politicians.
Now don’t worry. I know you think anger will damage you more than anything else. Not true. Shame will. Why else do you think you partied so much in college? I never understood why you humans try so hard to make people like you. In my opinion, you are pretty easy to influence. Consider Adam and Eve. But like all praise whores, your self-worth depends on outside validation. Ironic. Because despite all your commendable religious, educational, and professional achievements your pain refuses to depart. Hey, I’m not complaining. I dig your shallow Christianity. My advice? Keep busting your tail to look competent and acceptable. Forget God’s message of grace. Through success and works your shame may actually disappear for a while—just long enough for you to think it’s working.
I get it. Your past so injured your developing psyche that it permeates your view of yourself today. That’s my job—to keep reminding you of things you’d like to forget. Because that’s what keeps you hiding your true self from your spouse, friends, and my favorite—your church. We both know if your church knew the real you they’d kick you out faster than a divorced woman. So maintain that impenetrable fortress around your heart. Avoid intimate relationships. (Except the codependent ones.)
They say the first step to healing is talking about your pain. I’ll spare you the humiliation by making sure that never happens. Anyway, Christians are discouraged from exhibiting even a hint of struggle. Besides, you lack exposure to the types of things that will set you free: God’s love and compassion. You wouldn’t recognize if it punched you square in the face. So let’s keep it all locked safe inside you where no one can touch it—but me.
Happy New Year