The Lies that Bind   1 comment

When I was struggling with a deep sense of inadequacy and shame as a pastor in Arlington, a friend recommended a counseling couple.  As I sat with them in their living room, they explained that my poor self-worth came from believing lies, especially lies about God.  That may have been true, but it only made my sense of humiliation worse.  Not only did I feel shame, but I was wrong for feeling shame.  It is hard to hear, “You are deceived,” and feel positive about yourself, and “The God you worship is a false god,” is not particularly comforting either.

If this couple had identified with and shown empathy for my struggles, it would have made a huge difference.  They could have said, “We have all been tricked into believing lies foisted on us by family, church, and culture.  We are the victims of these deceptions.”  This may have really been their thought, but I could not get past the shame of living a lie.  When I asked Kimberly, “Doesn’t my anger or sadness or fear point to something that should not be in my heart, some skewed perspective for which I am guilty?” the question itself seems to invite a shaming answer.

“Well, did you know these beliefs were false?” she asked.  “Did you deliberately avoid the truth?  When you were at last shown the way did you run from it?”

“No,” I said, “I set my feet to it, not perfectly, but as best I could in spite of the fear and pain.”

“Yes, something is in your heart that should not be there, just like Somali pirates should not be on oil tankers, but you are no more guilty of it than the ship’s captain.  You did not create this darkness, but are rather victimized by it.  Don’t shame yourself for these lies which deceived you, but have compassion on yourself for the harm you still suffer because of them.”

Such soothing words of grace!  If I keep shaming myself for my struggles, it will push me away from God’s grace.  I’m afraid that if I openly admit what a mess I am, God will agree and put me on the bench till I get my act together.  Instead he embraces me and says, “I’ve been waiting for you to discover your wounds and show them to me so that I can begin to heal them.”

Emotions often reveal the unhealthiness of my heart.  If I rebuke and punish myself for this junk, I become more lost in the mazes of my shame and more afraid of the truth.  I’ve discovered that when I show myself compassion, like a child who is sick, the truth loses its monster mask and I am much more able to open my heart to it.  The truth comes to me as a companion and help rather than a testy and impatient headmaster.

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Posted August 6, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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One response to “The Lies that Bind

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  1. Pingback: As I Was Saying… « Janathan Grace Reflections

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