Recognizing and Renouncing the Religion of Shame

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Recognizing and Renouncing the Religion of Shame

Recognizing and Renouncing the Religion of Shame

As discussed in previous blogs (Silencing Shame, Disconnecting Shame, and Subduing the Strongholds of Shame), shame is feeling unworthy.  Guilt says, “I did a bad thing,” while shame says, “I am bad.” 

There is a huge difference between a saint repenting of sin, and always feeling like a sinner.  Shame erodes the core of our identity, so that we feel devalued, insignificant, deficient – worthless.  

Shame is the belief that we are uniquely and fatally flawed; that we will never measure up to the standard for acceptance and approval.  Shame declares that we are doomed for disappointment and disconnection.

    Shame says:

    “If others see the real you, they won’t accept you.”

    “You are not good enough”

    “You need to prove that you’re O.K. by doing more, and getting it right”

    “You are going to be embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, punished – alone”

    “You will never overcome, succeed, prosper, flourish – thrive”

Ultimately, shame seeks to derail us from our destiny through feelings of despair, discouragement, dissatisfaction, distrust, doubtfulness, depression, and disillusionment.

Moreover, shame will not surrender or sympathize, no matter what we do to compensate for our perceived limitations and shortcomings.  

Fulfilling the If’s

Shame always puts conditions on our sense of worthiness, attempting to lure us into the contractual terms of “If, then…” to achieve well-being and fulfillment.

Have you ever heard these shame stipulations speaking?

    If I were smarter…then I would be accepted.

    If I made more money…then I would be significant.

    If I were thinner…then people would like me.

    If I were taller…then I would be noticed.

    If I had different hair…then I would fit in.

    If I had some hair...then I would find a fulfilling relationship

    If I looked younger…then I would be valued.

    If I looked older…then I would be valued.

    If I were a different ethnicity…then I would have more recognition.

    If I could just sing well…then I would be appreciated.

If…If…If… If…If…If… If…If…If… If…If…If… If…If…If… If…If…If…If…If…

Honestly, if our “If’s” were fulfilled, would we really feel valued and accepted – worthy?

Honestly, I doubt it.

We would just find more “If’s” to fulfill.  

Fulfilling the “If’s”, then, generates an insatiable demand for performance, which results in the need to satisfy the perception of unending un-fulfillment, requiring perpetual performance propelled by a sinking sense of shame.

Shame is the Source of Performance

Feelings of insignificance, un-acceptance, and unworthiness lead to life long pursuit of performing for approval.  When we feel “less-than,” it is natural to want to prove the voice of shame wrong.  

Shame demands continual and increasing compensation.

Unfortunately, even our best performances will not silence shame.  

Rather, performance will just insist on more performance, becoming a ceaseless cycle of falling short of ours, and other’s, expectations.  Our continual awareness of inadequacy and ineptness results in the need to more, and to do it “right”.

This perpetual push for performance leads to perfectionism; never possessing a sense of well-being until we have satisfied the insatiable standards for approval and acceptance.

Rest from the Religion of Shame

Performance and perfectionism are the foundation of religion.  Religion measures our worth by our work.  Religion is man’s attempt to please God through self-effort and striving. 

    Religion is:

  •         Work without relationship.
  •         Serving without passion
  •         Duty without empowerment

Shame is the religion of value by performance, and the religion of shame will allow no rest.  The religion of shame, rooted in fear, wants to control us, and instill in us a need to control the environment around us, so that we feel safe and secure.  

Unfortunately, this shame – fear – control syndrome is a false security, requiring continual striving, to maintain acceptance and approval.

The religion of shame offers no rest for the weary, demanding that we work harder, accomplish more, and perform better to achieve a sense of well-being and worthiness.

Jesus addressed the religious mind-set, when he said, 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Rest from what?

  •     Producing for approval
  •     Achieving for acceptance
  •     Performing for value
  •     Accomplishing for acknowledgement 
  •     Striving for recognition 
  •     Working for fulfillment

It is only when we understand the truth that we are saved by His work, not ours, that we can be set free from the religion of shame. 

The apostle Paul wrote,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).”

In other words, no one can achieve approval from God through performance.  Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, and could never hope to accomplish through striving for perfection.

Revival rest is operating out of a sense of worthiness and well-being because of what Christ already purchased for us on the cross.  

He worked to secure our love, acceptance and approval, so that we don’t have to.

“It is finished (John 19:30).”

That doesn’t mean that we don’t work, serve, and pursue excellence.  No, grace actually empowers us to fulfill our destiny.  Grace enables us to do more work, accomplish more, perform better, and serve faithfully without striving — without working for approval.  

Revival rest is:

  •     Working from love rather than for love
  •     Working from acceptance rather than for acceptance
  •     Working from approval rather than working for approval
  •     Working from identity rather than for a destiny

Renouncing the religion of shame is essential to encounter true love, unconditional acceptance, and authentic identity, leading to a destiny of well-being and fulfilled accomplishment.  

4 Steps in Renouncing the Religion of Shame

1.  Recognize the “If” triggers that bring up shame in your life

Take the next week to identify and record the “If” thoughts that attempt to seduce you into shame and striving.  

2.  Replace the “If’s” with “I am’s” to solidify your identity

    “I am enough”

    “I am worthy”

    “I am wonderfully made”

    “I am a saint”

    “I am lovable”

    “I am valuable”

    “I am significant”

    “I am acceptable”

“I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” 

3.  Replace the “If’s” with “I can’s” to define your destiny

    “I can have healthy connection with people without being perfect”

    “I can be vulnerable and honest without the fear of rejection”

    “I can be loved without strings attached”

    “I can have well-being without doing more”

    “I can make wise decisions and right choices without the fear of man”

    “I can make mistakes without needing to perform for approval”

    “I can make a difference in my sphere of influence without acknowledgement”

    “I can be a history maker without recognition”

“I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…” “I can…”

4.  Reinforce the Truth of Your Identity and Destiny

  • Make your own list of “I am’s” and “I can’s”.
  • Say them once a day while looking into the mirror.
  • Write them on your mirror or some other conspicuous place to remind yourself regularly.
  • Send one “I am” and “I can” a day to your phone as a reminder.

Renouncing the religion of shame, then, requires a new way of thinking and believing.  

I want to encourage you to rest in the grace of God —released from the slavery of shame—free to rest while you work.

Why not start today?

I would love to hear about how this blog has helped you in recognizing and renouncing the religion of shame.  If you have been encouraged, send it on to your friends.

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Subduing the Strongholds of Shame

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Subduing the Strongholds of Shame

Subduing the Strongholds of Shame

As discussed in previous blogs (Silencing Shame and Disconnecting Shame), shame is feeling unworthy.  Guilt says, “I did a bad thing,” while shame says, “I am bad.” 

Shame has many faces, conveying varying messages of ill being, coaxing its victims into secrecy, silence, and blame – condemning them to eek out a seemingly inescapable existence in the dark rooms of depression, anxiety, and detachment.

Some people tend to pronate towards shame (always feel bad about themselves), while others attempt to avert shame (avoid shame whenever possible).  Many people vacillate between the two.  Whatever side of the shame spectrum they may choose, shame always demands a prescription to numb the pain.

In attempting to offset the pain of feeling inferior, insignificant, deficient, disconnected, alone – hopeless.  When our identity and destiny are in question, coping with life’s challenges and the devil’s demands become more difficult.

We were made to feel O.K. about ourselves.  When we don’t feel O.K., we often look for ways to comfort our pain, and compensate for our inadequacies.  Shame lures us into dysfunctional behaviors, oftentimes resulting in addictions – becoming strongholds, seeking to choke out our lives, and the lives of those around us.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, approximately 23 million people are addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Not to mention those who are addicted to:

  • Pornography, promiscuity, adultery
  • Gambling
  • Overeating, binging, anorexia
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Recreation
  • Busyness
  • Work
  • T.V.
  • People (Co-dependency)

When we experience shame, we look for countermeasures to compensate for the comfort we need.  Until we face the realities of shame, we will never subdue the strongholds keeping us from walking in, and fulfilling, our true identity and destiny.

The Shame Syndrome

Shame places us on a merry-go-round of never ending promises of change, propelling us into poor choices.  When we don’t feel O.K., we feel powerless to end the shame syndrome driving us into dysfunctional decisions that destroy our sense of well-being even further.

Have you ever found yourself having this revolving conversation in your head?

  1. “God, I’m sorry”
  2. “That was the last time I’ll do that”
  3. “I did it again”
  1. “God, I’m sorry”
  2. “That was the last time I’ll do that”
  3. “I don’t know if I can stop”
  4. “I want to stop”
  5. “I did it again”
  1. “God, I’m sorry”
  2. “That was the last time I’ll do that”
  3. “I did it again”
  4. “I can’t tell anyone”
  5. “What will they think?”
  6. “I’m alone”
  1. “God, I’m sorry”
  2. “That was the last time I’ll do that”
  3. “God, please set me free”
  4. “I did it again”
  5. “I feel so bad – I am bad”
  6. “I can’t change”

And the cycle of repentance, resolve, and resignation continues to pull us into the depths of despair and dysfunction. Finally, our futile attempts for freedom lead to a fatalistic view of our future, and hope for freedom. 

The problem is that we are often fighting the symptoms of the problem instead of the source of the problem.

Subduing the Source of the Stronghold

The fact is that we can be free.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

In order to be free from the dysfunctional addictive behavior cycle, we must know the truth about what is at the root of the bondage that has taken us captive.  

Oftentimes, we are waging war against the wrong enemy.  

While addictions are enemies of the life God has promised us, it is shame that is the 5 Star General over the addiction armies.  Shame is the source of strongholds in our lives.  In order to subdue the stronghold of addictions, we must subdue shame.

Moreover, we must identify the triggers that compel us to act out in destructive, dysfunctional behaviors.

Some Suggestions for Subduing Strongholds of Shame

1.  What am I feeling?

Identifying our feelings, and the accompanying shame messages that trigger dysfunctional, addictive, behavior is essential in becoming free.

When someone says something derogatory towards us; when a circumstance doesn’t work out the way we had hoped; when we fail at something important to us, we can often sense a wide variety of demeaning messages of shame.  It is important to discern the specific feelings associated with those messages.  

I would recommend developing a list of feelings, and memorize them, so that you can recognize them when they present themselves.

Then, don’t judge the feeling; remember feelings are not right or wrong – they just are.  Stuffing, ignoring, and condemning our feelings will not ease the pain, or erase the messages of shame.  Acknowledging and even accepting our feelings is the beginning to finding out what we really need for our well-being.

2.  What do I need?

Acknowledging our needs is not a selfish pursuit.  Feelings are indicators of needs.  

    Feeling sad may indicate that we need comfort

    Feeling disappointed may indicate that we need assurance

    Feeling irritated may indicate that we need understanding

    Feeling guilty may indicate that we need forgiveness

    Feeling hopeless means that we may need a fulfilling vision

    Feeling depressed may indicate that we need passion

    Feeling lonely may indicate that we need intimacy

    Feeling rejected may indicate that we need connection

We were created to have our needs fulfilled by God and others.  When we deny or downplay our emotions – our feelings, we are choosing to fly through the storms of life without the instruments designed to assist in navigating us towards the runway of well-being.

It is important to identify our feelings and what are they indicating.  

For example, you may discern that you are feeling lonely.  At that point, it is important to ask: “What are my feelings indicating?” “What do I need?”  

    “I need:”

        “A hug” 

        “A friend” 

        “A community” 

        “Someone who will listen” 

        “Sexual intimacy”

        “To encounter God’s presence”

3.  Manage behavior

While we may accurately assess our feelings, and the needs they are demanding to be met, it is equally important to seek sources of fulfillment that will lead us into well-being.

Ask yourself, “What would be the best way to fulfill that need?” 

Seeking sound solutions for the fulfillment of our needs is crucial in subduing strongholds that shame seduces us into dis-ease.

Making good choices based on the consequences of cause and affect is key to healthy problem solving.  

    Ask yourself:

        “What will this behavior cost me?”

        “How will this option affect my family, friends, and community?”

        “How will this choice create permanent well-being?”

        “How will this decision impact my future destiny?”

4.  Reach out for help

No one is an island.  We cannot subdue the strongholds of shame on our own.  If we could, we would have already done it!  We need God’s help; we need the help of others.  

I want to encourage you to begin to:

ask for help. reach for help. subduing the strongholds of shame

    1.  Take risk to reach out

    2.  Be vulnerable in sharing shame strongholds, remembering that true strength is found in weakness.

    3.  Find a support system that can help you can grow in faith, authenticity, accountability, and a deeper sense of love and belonging.  

    4.  Surround yourself with people will encourage you to walk in your true identity and destiny.

You were made to thrive in life, experiencing a sense of well-being in increasing measure. 

I want to encourage you:

    Don’t settle for anything less

    You deserve the best

    You are worth it!

I would love to hear feedback on how this blog impacted you.  If it encouraged you, remember to share it with your friends, and look for more blogs coming on this topic of Shame.  

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Disconnecting Shame

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Disconnecting Shame

Disconnecting Shame

Sadly, only about 50% of married couples will reach their 15th wedding anniversary.  Only 33% will reach their 25th anniversary.  The primary reason:  Divorce.

Among the top reasons for divorce are poor communication, arguing, infidelity, and stagnation:  Disconnection – Shame.

Unfortunately, these statistics are the same for Christians as for unbelievers.

Divorce is a reality in our culture because shame is a reality of our culture. Shame is at the root of many of the relational issues that prevent us from having positive, loving, and healthy connection.

In a previous blog, Silencing Shame, we defined shame as a sense of unworthiness; it is the feeling that says:

“I am bad” 

“I am unwanted”

“I am undesirable”

“I am less than”

“I am devalued”

“I am insignificant”

“I am unlovable”

“I am a mistake”

“I am worthless”

These messages of shame that shout out to us from the corners of our mind and the bottom of our hearts, wage war against the very reason we were created – Connection.  

Created for Connection

We were designed to have fulfilling relationships.  God created us to have relationship with Him and each other in marriage, family, friendship, Church community, the workplace, and the larger community in which we live.

Connection is the key to a whole and happy life.

1 + 1 = Wholeness

The statement, “No man is an island” is true.  When God made Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).”We need each other to be whole.  Having healthy connections is crucial to having a fulfilled life.

1 + 1 + Wholeness = Happy

Connected people are happy people.  I have never met a newly engaged couple that looked miserable; no, they are normally walking hand in hand, smiling, laughing, and enjoying life. 

Happy couples don’t normally seek out counseling, only unhappy ones, who are trying to find or regain connection.

Shame Disconnects Connection

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to have healthy connections when we feel disconnected through shame.

Disconnection is feeling:

  1. Diminished
  2. Rejected
  3. Reduced
  4. Unworthy

When we feel disconnected, shame seduces us into secrecy, insists on silence, and results in judgment.  

When we begin hiding, afraid to be vulnerable, we begin blaming ourselves, and others, for the disconnection that we feel, using blame to deal with our feelings of unworthiness and powerlessness. 

Instead of pulling people towards us, we push them away, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that we are not worthy of love and acceptance.  Disconnection is the result.

Shame is the Fear of Disconnection

Why are we so afraid of what someone else thinks or says about us?

Why do we try to hide our mistakes, deficiencies, and limitations from others?

We are afraid of punishment.

We are afraid of rejection.

We are afraid that others will not accept us for who we truly are.

We are afraid that if someone sees us as we truly are, we will not be loved.  

Shame is rooted in fear.

The devil (the “divider”) wants to shower us in shame, because shame breeds fear, which breeds disconnection. 

Disconnecting Shame Through Connection

Perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).  When we are free from fear, shame has no more hold of us, and we are free to take risk to pursue fulfilling relationships.

Connection is feeling:

  1. Valued
  2. Accepted
  3. Affirmed
  4. Worthy

Who wouldn’t want to feel that?  

We can only truly love to the degree that shame is silenced, by cultivating value, acceptance, affirmation, and worth within ourselves.  

These core feelings of connection begin with an encounter of God’s love.  

When Jesus was baptized, he heard the Father say, “This is my son in whom I love, with him I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” It was out of that revelation that Jesus was able to say, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30).” Jesus was able to have healthy connection with God and others because he encountered true love.

Disconnecting Shame Through Love

It is only as we begin to experience God’s love that we can truly love and accept ourselves as God made us.  

When a person has a sense that they are inherently bad, worthless, it is very difficult to have healthy relationships because we can only love others to the degree that we love ourselves.

Jesus commanded us to love the Lord, and to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).” Similarly, the apostle Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives as they love themselves (Ephesians 5:28).

Doesn’t it make sense that if God loves us, that we should love us?  

Shame tells us that we are sinners, evil, bad – undeserving of love.  God says that we are the apple of His eye, His bride, His children, heirs, His friend, His elect, saints – the object of His affectionate love.

The more we believe the truth about our love connection with God, the more we will be able to love ourselves and others.  Shame will no longer be able to disconnect us from experiencing healthy, whole, relationships.

Disconnecting Shame Through Empathy

Love is expressed in empathy.

Empathy is the remedy to shame.  

Empathy is the God-given prescription that enables us to be known, and to truly know.

Empathy is:

  1. Seeing the world as other’s see it
  2. Being non-judgmental
  3. Understanding another person’s feelings
  4. The ability to communicate another person’s feelings

Empathy is being able to identify my feelings, and the feelings of others, allowing myself, and others, to have these feelings, and asking reflective questions to confirm what has been communicated.

Feelings are not right or wrong – they just are.  

When we feel heard, we feel connected.  When we listen, we invite connection.

Empathy is ultimately other-focused.  True love, that breeds connection, cares about what others are feeling. The Bible says, “Love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5).” When we are able to understand someone else’s feelings and perspective, then we are able to connect in healthy, whole, ways.

Disconnecting Shame Through Vulnerability

Empathy requires Vulnerability.

Vulnerability is:

  1. Uncertainty
  2. Risk
  3. Emotional Exposure

If we desire healthy, whole, relationships, we must learn how to become vulnerable.

The apostle Paul wrote, “We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8).” He was willing to let his friends see the real him in every facet.

Here are 4 simple steps to increase vulnerability:

  1. Practice Gratitude towards yourself and others.
  2. Honor the Ordinary in yourself and others.
  3. Pursue Joy and Love for yourself and others.
  4. Start taking risk to share your feelings, as well as feeding back other’s feelings.

As you take steps towards expressing empathy and vulnerability, it won’t be long until shame has been disconnected, and disconnection is transformed into healthier, whole, connection.

Let me know how this topic has impacted you, and look for some more upcoming blogs on dealing with the issues of shame.

 

 

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Silencing Shame

Have you ever heard that little voice in your head say…?

“You don’t fit in” 

“Nobody likes you”

“You’re stupid”

“You’re the only one who has made this mistake” 

“How could God love you? I mean He really knows everything about you”

“You’re not lovable”

“You will never fulfill your destiny”

Have you ever felt like…?

“Everyone is against me”

“I’m not as good as others”

“I just can’t do anything right”

“Maybe if I just try harder, then…”

“I’m all alone”

“I hate myself”

“I’m worthless”

If you answered “yes” to any of these statements, shame could be speaking to you.

Shame has been Speaking Since the Garden of Eden.

When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, guilt was an appropriate symptom of their disobedience.  Guilt is built into our conscience to let us know when we have done something that threatens our connection with God.  

Guilt is actually a good thing.  It’s like a warning light on a car’s dashboard that lets you know when something needs attention before the engine blows up.

Guilt is from God

Shame is from Satan

Guilt says, “You did something wrong,” like when the apostle Paul said, “All have sinned (Rom. 3:23).” Guilt says, “I did something bad.”  Guilt is about what we’ve done.

Shame goes further:  It speaks to who we are.

Shame is the sense of feeling unworthy.  It’s a core (even subconscious) belief of unworthiness.

Shame says, “You are wrong.” “You are a sinner.” “You are bad.” “You are not good enough.” 

Shame asks, “Who do you think you are?

Shame Attempts to Speak to our Identity

If the devil can convince us that we do not have a supernatural identity as children of God, then he can derail us from our supernatural destiny.

When Jesus was baptized, he heard the Father say, “This is my son…” Identity.  Interestingly, Jesus did not preach one message, heal one sick person, or prophesy until he first heard of his true identity.  We can only fulfill our supernatural destiny to the degree that we believe our supernatural identity.

Shame tries to talk us out of our identity.

After his baptism, Jesus was led out into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Two times, the devil assaulted Jesus’ identity when he challenged him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” And then, “If you are the Son of God, jump off of the Temple’s roof.”

The devil was attempting to tempt Jesus into performing to prove his identity because he knew that if Jesus took the challenge, it would demonstrate that he did not really know who he was.  Moreover, he would have to spend the rest of his life proving his identity over and over.  Knowing our true identity prevents performance for approval.

Shame is the Source of Perfectionism

Shame always seeks to seduce its prey into perfectionism.  When we listen to shame, we will never feel secure in our identity.  We will always need to do more to prove that “we are O.K.”, while never actually appeasing shame’s appetite for approval.

The pursuit of feeling worthy by being better, more successful, thinner, smarter, wealthier, accomplished, or even in “good” busyness, is a futile attempt at cultivating a godly sense of worthiness.

The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:10 that, “We are saved by grace, not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.” That means you cannot earn worthiness.  We are worthy of God’s love because of His grace – nothing more.  

Additionally, we were God’s treasures before we ever became Christians – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” When God created Adam and Eve, He said that they were “good;” they had intrinsic worth – worthiness – His treasures.

Shame Silencers

1.  Learn how to recognize God’s voice from the devil’s voice.   

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m hearing the truth or a lie?” Try writing down all of the times shame speaks to you during the day.  You may be surprised at how often shame is speaking.

2.  Learn how to be vulnerable.  

Shame loves secrecy.  The truth will set us free.  Being open and honest requires great risk, but also reaps great reward.  Begin with yourself, God, and then reach out to someone who can give you good feedback.  Telling someone that we have been listening to shame releases us from the power of secrecy, and silences shame.  

3.  Learn to recognize your feelings.  

Empathy is the antidote to shame.  When we are able to discern and identify our feelings and the feelings of others, it creates a pathway to finding out what we need from God, others, and ourselves.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”  “What do I need?”

4.  Learn to take every thought captive.  

You are going to be tempted to believe and act in negative, hurtful, and dysfunctional ways to the shame messages spoken to you. Shame is silenced when we take ownership of our mistakes, accept our limitations, deficiencies, and limitations, as well as interpret other people’s motives correctly.  Take responsibility in submitting shaming thoughts and feelings to become obedient to Christ’s perspective (2 Corinthians 10:5).

5.  Learn how to listen through the ears of faith.  

Ask yourself, “What does God want to say to my about my identity right now?” “What does He think about me?” Additionally, begin reading Scripture from the perspective that God is for you, that you are a good man or woman, that you are a saint saved by grace, an overcomer, the apple of His eye.

6.  Learn to be grateful.

The fact is that you are wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  Being grateful for how God has made you in all of your limitations and imperfections will help you to replace shame with acceptance and love.  Every time you hear shame messages left on your mental voice mail, erase them with gratitude.  Thankfulness prepares the way for breakthrough.

Let me know how this message has helped you silence the shame messages that have been sent to you.

And then, look for some more important practical tips on how to silence shame coming soon!

 

To continue with the "Never The Shame Again" series, wait until next week for the next post!

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