“I felt ashamed”
“But of what Psyche, they hadn’t stripped you naked or anything?”
“No, no, Maia. Ashamed of looking like a mortal – of being a mortal.”
“But how could you help that?”
“Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?”
I was facilitating some reflection on shame yesterday with a lovely group of students and this quotation was one of the things we explored. I found myself again answering yes to this last statement. Having emotional or other responses to things I can do nothing about is one of those areas that I need to continually to work on and this is no exception. So I find myself feeling shame about my weight and while it can be argued that I can do something about it I have a family body shape and there is certainly a genetic element in how I look. I feel shame about being childless although there is nothing I did to cause this. I have felt shame in the past about not being the extravert, touchy feely type of woman I felt was more appreciated in some of the contexts I found myself in. I find it frustrating that I feel shame about such things as they feel like they are cultural constructs or expectations that I should be able to better resist and on good days I do.
Shame is about who we are whereas guilt is about what we have done so this makes good sense to me intellectually given my extensive reading on the subject. So when I feel shame I need to remember how much God loves me, how precious I am to God and others and realise how important it is to mediate this loving acceptance to others. It doesn’t take long to write that last sentence but it is taking me a life time to fully understand it and live it out!
C S Lewis Till we have faces: a myth retold New York: Harcourt, 2006 (originally published 1956).