last night, with the encouragement of a supporter whose sincerity humbles me, i read 36 words that describe my current life situation. in 36 words i shared shock, grief, hope, determination, and gratitude. these feelings dominate my days. i’m afraid of what i wrote, but i wasn’t afraid to read the words outloud to a group of people waiting and wanting to hear them. there is shame in what i wrote, but i felt no shame when i shared. shame’s most powerful ally is secrecy. share the secret and shame shrinks into smallness and subsides.
most people i know have shame secreted away where they think no one can see, feel, or find it. shame distorts our perception of ourselves and others. i sense your shame in the thickness of your armor, by your sarcastic sense of humor, through your judgments of others. you can sense mine in these same ways. shame lies to us with feelings of unworthiness, asserting that we are unlovable and unforgivable. shame interferes with our ability to love ourselves and others. shame preserves itself by inhibiting our capacity for compassion. shame keeps us locked in the past, perpetuating self-hate that pressurizes in dark spaces inside us. when we speak our shameful secrets, we bring them into a light and airy field where shame is seen in its tiny porcupiny puffed-up guise. shame changes form when shared in a safe space held by anyone who is not afraid of you, your shame, your secret, or your self-hate. shame loses potency when brought face-to-face with compassionate understanding.
i write words of tears uncried. i cry tears of words unwritten. sometimes writing and crying come together, but not in this hour. in this hour my cheeks are dry, my heart is open, and i am grateful for your support, for your kindness, for your caring. i gently reach inside you and unlock the door to the storage closet where you have hidden your shame. i knock quietly, letting you know that i am here, waiting for you to step into the hallway that leads to the light. bring your shameful secret with you. say it outloud. i will hold this compassionate space and you will see your shame transform into something else, something that stutters through fear, brings instant relief, traverses a spot of grief, and leads to a legacy of love.