I am immensely grateful to Daniel Corcoran, a fellow clergy person, for suggesting how important it is to ask ‘how is this understood?’ in relation to shame and church. It is a key question to ask in many contexts, not just church.
Despite having been to church for most of my life I can go to some places and not have a clue what to do. Others seem to know when to sit, kneel or stand but not always me. Shame is about feeling I am a bad or worthless or flawed person and for those of us who are shame prone it is not difficult to make us want to disappear and hide because we feel stupid and out of place. There are so many contexts where unwritten rules or mores exist where we don’t know what to do if we come new to a situation and when we get it wrong others can be very condemning or dismissive and this can impact how we see ourselves.
If you are planning an activity, an event, welcoming a new person into a family or group of friends then consider what it is you need to ask of ‘how is this understood?’ and be aware of what you need to explain to people, warn them of or prepare them for. Shame can be immensely debilitating, it can often be avoided if we consciously think about how we can be less shaming.
My book Shame and the Church is available from a range of places and I am doing a series of talks in different places applying my PhD research into varying contexts. Contact me if interested firstname.lastname@example.org.