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By Curt Thompson, MD
Despite all we know about shame, containing it, let alone disposing of it, is a bit like grasping for mercury: the more pressure you use to seize it, the more evasive it becomes.
Typically, whenever researchers study and discuss shame, we do so as though it is some abstract emotional or cognitive phenomena. We describe shame as something we would do well to better regulate, but not as an entity that has a conscious will of its own.
But I believe we live in a world in which good and evil are not just events that happen to us but rather expressions of something or someone whose intention is for good or for evil. And I will suggest that shame is used with this intention to dismantle us as individuals and communities, and destroy all of God’s creation.
Putting shame to death is not simply about addressing it as a deeply destructive emotional and relational nuisance. For we cannot speak of shame without speaking of creation and God’s intention for it. From the beginning it has been God’s purpose for this world to be one of emerging goodness, beauty and joy. Evil has wielded shame as a primary weapon to see to it that that world never happens.
Consequently, to combat shame is not merely to wrestle against something we detest. Shame is not just a consequence of something our first parents did in the Garden of Eden. It is the emotional weapon that evil uses to corrupt our relationships with God and each other and disintegrate any and all gifts of vocational vision and creativity.
Shame, therefore, is not simply an unfortunate, random, emotional event that came with us out of the primordial evolutionary soup. It is both a source and result of evil’s active assault on God’s creation, and a way for evil to try to hold out until the new heaven and earth appear at the consummation of history.
Combating shame requires more work than you might imagine. Shame’s power lies not so much in facts that we can clarify but rather in its emotional state, which is so much harder to shake.
Throughout this book you will read the stories of people like you and me who are wrestling with shame and doing their best to fix their eyes on Jesus, do what he did, and despise it on the way to being liberated to create as they were so intended from the beginning.
*Excerpt from Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves. IVP Books, 2015. Book review at Hearts and Minds Books.