“And they felt no shame.”
Genesis 2:25 NIV
Bullying or not? At age 67, someone commented on a Facebook post of mine this week, “Shame on you.” Now, that’s amazing to me! I don’t think anyone has said that to me since elementary or middle school. It wasn’t an accusation my parents used at all. This current attack caught me totally off guard. I knew I had to talk about it, and what better place than my blog. I’ve vowed not to fight on Facebook, but here I can do a thoughtful consideration of a toxic topic so destructive.
I do believe the statement, “Shame on you,” qualifies as a bullying technique, and bullying has become rampant in our world over the last few years. Whether I’m the target or witness, it aims to injures my soul. I saw a bully’s harm repeatedly as a middle school teacher, so I do think those who use it might be locked into that age mindset.
Then, what did I do to spurn this rebuke? I took my own advice from last week’s blog and created a positive post about the vice-presidential candidate of my choice. Shame on me for what? Having a different opinion? Being a woman? Using the brain God gave me to think independently? What?
Others who disagreed with me politically joined in with their reproach and misinformation, but I had friends who supported my post. What began as a simple positive post ended up a political battle field—exactly what I was trying to avoid!
So, I plan to use this teachable moment—once a teacher always a teacher even though I’m retired. The dictionary defines shame as:
- to cause to feel shame; make ashamed: His cowardice shamed him.
- to publicly humiliate or shame for being or doing something specified (usually used in combination): kids who’ve been fat-shamed and bullied; dog-shaming pictures of canines chewing up shoes.
- to drive, force, etc., through shame: He shamed her into going.
From the definitions listed, this person tried to do publicly humiliate or shame me (bullying me), but guess what? It didn’t work. This new attempt at shaming me took me back to my teaching days witnessing bullies trying to dominate someone on the playground. It took me back to my childhood when some bully tried to one-up me! But its power evaporated!
As I pondered the word, shame, I remembered where I’ve heard it talked about often— in my recovery groups. We have a great slogan to defuse it: Guilt says I did something work; shame says I am wrong. I’ve spent years dealing with toxic shame that debilitated me.
One source that helped me early in recovery was the work of John Bradshaw and one book specifically, Healing the Shame That Binds You. John’s website describes this book: “Toxic shame limits the development of self-esteem and causes anxiety and depression, and limits our ability to be connected in relationships. This book is for those seeking the one great thing that is missing in their life–WHOLENESS and WELLBEING.”
Bradshaw says, “. . .shame as a healthy emotion can be transformed into shame as a state of being. As a statue of being, shame takes over one’s whole identity. To have shame as an identity is to believe that one’s being is flawed, that one is defective as a human being. Once shame is transformed into an identity, it becomes toxic and dehumanizing.” Healing the Shame That Binds You, Page vii
When I walked through the doors of recovery rooms many years ago, I suffered severe depression and low self-esteem. As I faced my alcoholism and deep injury caused by incest through doing step work and adding individual therapy, I moved beyond the shame that bound me. It took years!
Recently, a recovery friend suggested a daily devotional, Shine the Light of Truth on Shame: Daily Reflections by Santa Fe author, Barb Tonn. I’m always open to going deeper. This book is described as “. . . a refreshingly unique book that provides an honest, thorough, easily understood, and insightful program to release us from the pain of shame. Author Barb Tonn shares from a deep well of tools she developed working as a psychotherapist, who for over thirty years specialized in healing shame.”
Tonn says, “Shame is a profoundly hurtful way of gaining control. It damages relationships and trust. It tears down and does not build up again. Shame is NEVER the way to attend to problematic situations.”
Shine the Light of Truth on Shame: Daily Reflections, Page 16
I love Tonn’s practical advice and tools on dealing with shame today, and reading it prepared me.
So the Genesis verse referenced at the beginning tells us that Adam and Eve felt no shame in the sinless beginning of this world, and I long for that perfection to return! When this attack came, my years of recovery prepared me not to react, but it has shown bullies still exist in this world, no matter what our age!
Will I stop posting positive information? No, because I won’t quit! I refuse to let the bullies win.
What do you do when bullied or shamed? Let’s hope that our discourse on the topic will help those of us who want a better world, a world without toxic shame and bullying.
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