#23 IN MY CHAPTER-BY-CHAPTER JOURNEY THROUGH ROBERT MCGEE’S BEST-SELLING BOOK, THE SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE.
Shame can have powerful effects on our self-esteem, and it can manifest itself in many ways. The following is a brief list of common problems associated with shame.
By definition, shame is a deep sense of inferiority. Feelings of inferiority can result from prolonged patterns of failure, or they can stem from only one or two haunting instances. Either way, they can destroy our self-worth and, as a result, adversely affect our emotions and behavior.
Habitually Destructive Behavior
We often behave in a manner that is consistent with our perception of ourselves. Therefore, seeing ourselves through the eyes of shame usually results in a pessimistic outlook on life and a lifestyle of destructive behavior.
Shame often prompts us to view ourselves as victims. Consequently, whether we blame others or condemn ourselves for our actions, we sink into the depths of feeling sorry for ourselves.
Some of us try to compensate for gnawing feelings of shame through passivity, refusing to invest any part of ourselves in relationships and responsibilities. We may be compulsive perfectionists in some areas of our lives but my avoid taking risks in relationships or circumstances. We may become engrossed in peripheral activities (i.e. clipping coupons, cleaning the house, filing papers, reading magazines) so that awe are “too busy” to experience the reality of relationships and situations.
Isolation and Withdrawal
Isolation i often a corollary of passivity. Avoiding both the risks of rejection and failure, some of us withdraw from virtually all meaningful interactions. We develop facades so that nobody can see our hurt. We may be socially active but not allow anyone to get close to us or to actually know us.
Loss of Creativity
When we are ashamed of ourselves over a period of time, the cutting edge of our creativity atrophies. We tend to become so preoccupied with our own inferiority that we are unable to come up with new ideas. Often believing that whatever we attempt will fail, we may choose to avoid doing anything that isn’t a proven success and relatively risk-free.
In an attempt to overcome their sense of shame, many people become codependent. They depend on being needed by a family member or friend who has an addictive problem or compulsion. Codependents thus develop a need to rescue and take care of others. This caretaking is the codependent’s subconscious way of trying to gain personal significance.
Despising Our Appearance
Beauty is highly valued in our society. Television commercials and programs, magazine ads, the internet, and billboards all convey the message that beauty is to be prized. But very few people compare to the beautiful people we see portrayed artificially in these images. We spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and an inestimable amount of time and worry covering up or altering our skin, eyes, teeth, face, nose, thighs, and so on, refusing to believe that God, in HIs sovereignty and love, gave us the features He wants us to have.
In my next posting, I’ll begin to look at God’s answer to our human struggle with shame.
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