The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson(Book review)

 

Ah shame, what a tough subject to discuss as it is tough to deal with it! Ever since the Fall, humanity has been marred by shame. It is a shadow that never ceases to follow you around and consume you. Not only does it distort your well-being but how you live life as well. You always feel like you are damaged goods, never good enough, and just never measuring up. God is seen a mean entity who cannot ever bear to look at you because you find yourself so sinful. That is merely a snapshot of how shame affects us. That is what Curt Thompson attempts to get at in this book and he does it well.

Shame is described and defined as you would expect. But one thing that Thomspson takes into account is the neurological effect on shame as a he is a psychiatrist with a neurological background. Thus adding an further in depth analysis on shame impact. For instance, shame affects our brain. The more we act out in shame, the more it is reinforced in our brain leading to a stasis in us. Moreover, shame distorts our walk with God, looking all the way back to the Fall and plenty of stories shared from people with shameful experiences. The remedy? vulnerability. First, seeing it in God who made Himself vulnerable in creating us to share in this world and also through Christ coming to die for our sins so that we would be reconciled to God the Father. As we live between now and the final consummation, the church must likewise grow in vulnerability with one another as it practices the same love and grace God bestows on us. Although shame is a life-long struggle, thankfully it will be forever gone in heaven as we will live on shameless, living fully in the very glory of God. So do yourself a favor and please check out this book. It will minister to you. It is always refreshing to see books that observe what is usually seen as psychological issues yet comes from a Christian foundation. Honestly, it is something we need more of.

 

Highlights

“When shame appears, especially in malignant forms, we are often driven to a felt sense of stasis. Our mind feels incapable of thinking. We may feel literally physically frozen in place when experiencing extreme humiliation, and if we are able to move, we feel like going somewhere we can hide and remain hidden without returning to engage others. We don’t necessarily experience this with minor insults, but there is no question that our ability to move creatively in our mind is slowed. This general idea that shame leads the world ultimately to a point of paralysis, vis-à-vis the movement that is required for creative engagement, will become more important when we explore the nature of God’s movement and its necessity for shame’s healing.”

“Attention is the engine of the mind’s train that pulls along the rest of the functional cars. Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at any time are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention. What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life.”

“Remember, attention is the key to the engine that pulls the train of our mind; shame’s first priority is distraction.”

“Judgment strengthens shame’s grinding attempt at isolation. In order for me to judge someone, I must create enough distance between us in order to analyze him or her. With that judgment the distance grows. And with enough distance comes isolation.”

Ramblings on People

People are so draining. Although friends are important, there are times when you begin to question such friendships. For instance, not being there when you need ’em most meanwhile they pop out only to ask for favors. It gets worse when you see them spending more time with other people than you as if you’re being replaced. You place them high upon the pedestal as your best friend, yet you’re not even on theirs. While they may be on the forefront on your minds, you seemingly are an afterthought in theirs. Now that hurts. It’s oftentimes one gets bitter, resentful, betrayed, angry, and frustrated. Thus one wants to cut people off.

And as a Christian, it’s worse when unity/fellowship/love is expected. Trust me, I’ve been there many times. In fact, I’m actually there right now. I’ve dealt with much grief, sadness, and frustration with people this year alone. I feel like I’ve reached a breaking point. I’ve been anything but happy with the people in my life. It’s difficult to think about certain people without becoming enraged… In short, I’m done with people.

But  lately, I’ve come to a realization that I hope would be of help to you as it is to me. This is what I’ve concluded: just as people are unreliable, people are also overeliable. We wait too much on people that we are upset when our needs go unmet. Here’s the thing however, in which I have to tell myself time and time again. Not everyone is ignoring you nor neglecting you with bad intentions as we always tend to think. And due to bad experiences, it’s easy to put people in the negative. But it’s not like that at all. Just recognize that we rely on people too much when they cannot meet all of our needs.

In closing, I want to share some tips worth applying (I know I need them too)

  • Realize who’s who in your lifeIn other words, see who really is a friend. Ideally, friendships are two-way streets so they must be reciprocal. If you’re just chasing after people all the time with zero reciprocation, it might be time to cut them loose (depending on the situation). They’re probably not the friends you think they are.
  • Realize proper expectations must be made clearHaving done step 1, let your friends know what your expectations are that way they can do their best to meet them and vice versa. It’s easy to get pissed off at unmet expectations yet you never made them known to begin with! They’re not mind readers so something must be said.
  • Realize people will not always met your expectationsThus bringing us back to square one. As much as clarifying expectations is good, just know that people will fail you and you will fail them. Again, people are unrealiable and overiable which leads me to my next point.
  • Realize that only God brings contentmentPeople aren’t meant to fill the void, thus we will never be satisfied with them. Only God fills that space with His joy, peace, and love. As the apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content” despite being in prison, and receiving blessings from the Philippian church (Phil. 4:10-12). That’s why he says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength ” (v 13) as a recognition of Christ’s sufficiency. While people fail, God will never fail. While everyone else disappears, God remains right there wherever you are, however you are.
  • Realize that you can be happy aloneWhat I’m not advocating here is being anti-social or isolationist. Rather, you don’t have to wait for people to make you happy.  Otherwise you’re leaving it all on them and that is an impossible burden to them. Or you realize, that you don’t have friends period! Or you did, but everyone drifted away. But again, only God can fill that void.
    • Therefore, practice self-care. Take yourself out every now and then. Do something productive ,creative and fun. You don’t always need people for that. Remember, life is short so make the most of it. In doing so, one can learn to be content whether people are around or not because you’re no longer overwhelmed. You learn to love and accept them as they are, flaws and shortcomings included.

Anyways let me know your thoughts. Have you felt this way? Did you come to same realization I did about being unreliable/overeliable? I feel like the older we get, the more we realize it and are able to handle it better. But it definitely takes time and effort to apply. At the end of the day, it’s okay to have friends and meet new friends despite the inevitable shortcomings. But with God, it’s completely different. Now He’s the one friend who will never fail you. He’s the one friend who will never leave you nor forsake you. He’s the one friend we can truly count on!