Thursday, October 13, 2011

Secrets and Shame

I've had a love/hate relationship with Oprah Winfrey for years. I've watched her show avidly and then for long periods I avoided it like the plague. Recently, though, I've found that I'm watching and I'm learning. That, in my humble opinion, is never a bad thing.

Tonight's program dealt with secrets -- shameful things we keep locked away because we're afraid that if anybody knew they would reject us, think less of us, or find us fakes and frauds, living a life that isn't authentically us but rather a scripted show where we're on stage in the spotlight but then retire to the dressing room to take off the makeup and glitz.  They have their idea of who we are based on what they know and observe, but there's possibly someone else down underneath that is a stranger to them -- and the shame in us wants to keep it that way.

Twelve-step groups have a program of progressive uncovering of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with authenticity, openness and honesty. One of the really hard things is doing a personal inventory, sitting down with pencil and paper and "Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves," including all the things we've done that we've hidden from the world and buried as deeply as we can possibly make them. The next step, though, is just as hard if not harder: "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." I did those steps, several times, if truth be told. The problem was that I wasn't willing to do the next steps after that, to be willing to ask God to remove my defects and then actually giving them over to God and releasing myself from them. I thought I had, I'd tried to, but I never really did.

Tonight while watching Oprah I had an "AHA" moment -- I have to let go of shame that I've been holding in for things I've done. I have to admit what I've done and resolve that I will work hard to keep from repeating those serious lapses in judgment. What I don't have to do is tell everybody in the world what that shame is. If one other person knows, then I have shared it and if that person accepts me just the same, then I don't really need to carry the shame. If I can share my shame with several people and their reaction is the same, then why am I hanging on to it?  Even if I tell a whole bunch of people and some of them don't accept what I say and reject me because of what I shared, then it's their problem. I'm probably not someone they would want to know anyway -- and they are probably not people I really want to associate with either.

I also have to tell God about them, and I have to be willing to lay them in God's lap and let them stay there. I don't need them any more and I don't want them any more. Why should I keep on picking them up?  I never picked up the dropped clothes in my room as a kid (which I should have done) yet I keep picking up garbage that I should have gotten rid of some time ago.

There are people out in the world who know some of my secrets and shame, and who aren't adverse to using a pick axe to "expose" me to the world as a fraud and a fake. Having had that happen on more than one occasion, it has caused me to internalize the shame and be reluctant to let people see me, warts and all. I will be honest, there are a lot of things I've done that I'm not proud of, in fact, I'm very much ashamed of having done them. Those I have trusted with those secrets have not rejected me, though, and, indeed, have been rocks that have given me strength to keep going when I thought I couldn't.

The long and short of it is that in order for me to heal completely, I need to acknowledge what I've done,  give it to God, and once and for all, let go of it! 

That's a lot of insight for one evening. I think I need a nap -- or better yet, a night of sleep with maybe some dreams to add a bit more clarity?  We'll see.

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