Shame and Grace Part 14 - The Open Conversation

Feb 26

Shame and Grace Part 14 - The Open Conversation

Tue, 02/26/2013 - 07:10 — Thabo Mokete

When either guilt or insecurity is not dealt with, it tends to create an environment of shameful secrets, where lying becomes necessary. It is the power of acceptance that makes it possible to stop the lying and embrace the healing that is needed.
Denial makes life seem bearable for one who carries on a private shame. It helps to cover up the 'terrible thing' so one can carry on living, keeping private things private, so to speak.

This setup is almost perfect if it were not for one thing. The longer one puts up a false front or justifies his or her lack of well-being, the bigger the problem grows that is left unattended. The more effective the disguise, the less opportunity one has of desiring healing for the problem. This is the tragic outcome of denial.

Is there a threshold for lying before it becomes toxic? Is there a time when one can say “I have lied enough. I want to come clean now”? For most that threshold is at that place where one has “hit rock-bottom” and lost the most precious things they once had.

The motivation for lying or denial is that it helps us keep the current position. It helps prevent any unwanted changes that may happen if the truth were to be told. For example, if it were to be known that a certain respected politician is entertaining an intrigue with twelve year old girls, there would definitely be a change in the way people treat him. He might even lose his career and be thrown in jail. So he has a strong reason to keep that a secret. However, as long as he successfully keeps the secret, he has little chance of getting help with the deeper shame that makes it necessary for him to seek out twelve year old girls.

So it is that we often take great care in keeping shameful secrets away from people and from God. Little do we realize that God saw the root blemish of our lacking in well-being before we even started with those practices.

Hence, people often do their best to appear excellent in public. The Pharisees sect as recorded in the Gospels provide an example. Jesus made an illustration of two men who went to pray in the temple, a Pharisee and a tax-collector.1 The Pharisee in the story shows just how 'good' people do in fact try to engage God in corrupt conversations. Often it is the eloquent, exalted-language prayers that keep us from receiving the unconditional gift of grace. That feeling of having prayed well can be a sign of pride and denial of the true state of things within.

In contrast, the tax collector's shame was publicly known. He had no opportunity to hide anything. Thus his prayer was an open conversation with God and himself, only pleading for God's mercy, recognizing himself as a sinner. In that illustration, Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified!1

It is never too late to stop the lying and confront the guilt and insecurity, whatever the consequences may be. They may call that minister with the twelve year old problem a dirty beast after knowing about his shameful secret. Perhaps justifiably so, and society can exercise its right to give him his just deserts by locking him up in prison. Nevertheless, he is with the truth now. For in that very moment, life opens his eyes to the extended arm of acceptance and he is within reach of healing. The Gospel records how a woman caught in the act of adultery received this gift of unconditional acceptance from Jesus even after her private act became public shame.2

This does not necessarily mean that the world must always know about our private struggles. But it does mean that sooner or later, life brings an endgame to the lying and turns us around to confront the guilt and insecurity. If there are amends to be made to someone else because of it, then let it be so. If help is needed to deal with the root cause of the state of shame, such help can then be sought out.

We can be sure that God sees not only the things we consciously know and hide, but also the unconscious things that we ourselves are not aware of.
He is the first one that knows why there is a drink problem, a women problem, a men problem, a stealing problem, a money problem, a food problem, an anger or violence problem, a murder problem, and all other problems that terrorize the mind in various ways. God knows the answer to the question why.

All we are asked to do is open our hearts. This is what is called confession. The open conversation between the person and life itself. Between the Creator and the creature. Between the heart and the mind. Between feelings and thoughts. Between the conscious and the unconscious.

As such, confession is never a condition for reconciliation3, but it is the one way we know we have received the acceptance given to us. The act of God seeking out Adam and Eve after their fall in the garden was acceptance itself. Before they could say that they were naked, they had already been accepted by the Creator in spite of that.4

We need to realize that we are accepted by God and by life itself in spite of anything we have done. No matter how deep the consequences of the actions, let them not veil the greater gift of acceptance in spite of. We can now safely have that open conversation.5

1. Luke 18:9-14
2. John 8:1-11
3. 2 Corinthians 5:19
4. Genesis 3:8-11
5. Hebrews 10:19-22