So there I was, summer of my junior year of college on the church pulpit…I’ve been contemplating doing this for three months now, but have put it off every single time prior to this point. I had good reason to, right? I went to a bible college. People had high opinions of me. I stared at the audience and let out a huge sigh.
I’m a porn addict.
Stares at me deepen across the crowd.
“I have been since middle school. Since then, I’ve really come to grips about how much this rules me and controls my life. I hate the way I view women. I hate it.”
I paused, and took an even bigger sigh.
“The irony and hypocrisy is that I would go on long rants with many young adults here about how bad this s*@! is. While in reality I was consuming my own mind with it.”
Yes, I cussed in church.
“I’m sorry. Thank you for listening.”
I walked off stage, and heard a loud applause. But I couldn’t help but notice this feeling before and after my confession in front of my congregation. It wasn’t embarrassment. It was stronger than that. It wasn’t necessarily guilt either.
It was shame.
No, this article isn’t about the pitfalls of pornography, or to convince you that pornography is bad. It focuses on what to do when you feel this ridiculousness called shame. Because believe or not, shame has major implications on our psyche and how we choose to react to others — and not knowing how to deal with shame has caused relationships to crumble, anxiety, depression, traumatic fears, and even suicidal thoughts.
Shame in essence is a negative assessment by others on your very being. The Indo-European word for shame is derived from “shem” or “sham” which means to hide. And that’s what we want to do when we feel shame, yeah?
You’re the only one that didn’t bring an idea to the meeting? What do you do? You go out of your way to think of the most badass idea the next meeting. You lost a crazy improv dance battle in front of the woman you have a crush on? You spend rigorous hours training just in case there’s another improve dance battle. The list goes on.
That’s positive or constructive shame. It can actually be good for you. Negative shame has destructive effects.
You’re nervous and giving a speech. You begin to get so nervous you mess up all the key points and everything’s a mess. You never give a speech again, and when asked to do any public speaking, you want to hide behind a rock. You ask a gorgeous woman out. Not only does she reject you, but she does it in a rude way in public, in front of everyone. You are then afraid to ask any other woman out for fear of rejection, and shy away in initiating opportunities with the opposite sex due to that incident.
All because of shame.
I could write a whole book about this (and a lot of people have) but here’s a brief low down of what you can do when you’re dealing with shame:
1. Admit, accept, own up to it, and move on.
While there are many things you may laugh off, there are serious circumstances with serious consequences. I have a friend who dealt with shame when he cheated on his wife. His wife not only divorced him, but he caught an STD. Yes, he regretted what he did, and yes he felt an enormous amount of shame, especially in front of his kids. His kids are all grown up now but get this — they respect him because he owned up to it, and admitted he was wrong. And he was strong enough to move on. These situations aren’t always easy, but find a way, find motivation to move on.
2. Understand that these things don’t define you.
This goes back to self worth. Those who have an innate sense of who they are at heart and what their identity is understand this the best. Please understand that your past mistakes, and the unfortunate events that have happened to you don’t define you. It is how you choose to react to these things that reflect who you are at heart, and thus a part of your identity.
The greyhound, the fastest known dog tripped on a rock while running a race and lost the race to a golden retriever. That doesn’t change the fact that the greyhound is still the fastest dog on earth. The greyhound just had a minor setback. And that’s you. Whoever you are, wherever you’re reading this. You are a person, a human being. That has value and worth. You are capable of extraordinary things. Please don’t let shame get the best of you.