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:
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:
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.
- Seeing the world as other’s see it
- Being non-judgmental
- Understanding another person’s feelings
- 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.
- 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:
- Practice Gratitude towards yourself and others.
- Honor the Ordinary in yourself and others.
- Pursue Joy and Love for yourself and others.
- 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.