feelings

Revisiting My Shame Blanket

It has been a year and a half since I first wrote about my shame blanket. In some ways, my shame blanket is far behind me because of my growth. If I’m honest, I often carrying that blankie around like Charlie Brown’s little friend Linus.

What I’ve learned about my shame blanket goes beyond just saying I need to drop it, surrender from this bad view of myself.

Here is what I’ve learned about my shame blanket.

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My blanket shields my eyes and heart from distinguishing my feelings.

When I am in the darkness of shame, I cannot distinguish what I am feeling or why I am feeling it. Under the blanket, every bad feeling is because of the badness of me.

The truth about feelings is that naming what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is extremely important in emotional health. What I did in the past was felt shame for the bad feeling and powered through whatever was in front of me until I hit a wall I could not see because my eyes were in the darkness of shame.

I closed my eyes and worked.

I closed my heart and served.

I closed my spiritual eyes and missed the Father trying to lift my head.

When I would hit a wall, there would be such a jumble of emotions that there was no sorting through the mess. Like those plastic slinkies sold by that Asian company Sunday school teachers frequent, it is a tangled mess. Those things should come with a sticker that says, “Save your sanity by inserting into a trashcan promptly after ten minutes use.”

When I can recognize I’m feeling feelings, set my shame aside, give myself permission to open my eyes and heart to interpret just what those feelings are, then straightening the jumble is possible.

When you’ve realized what the feeling is you are feeling — actually named it, you can gently ask yourself, Why am I feeling this? Here’s where having clear eyes, unencumbered with the despised shame blanket, is so advantageous. Feelings are tricky. Sometimes you are feeling a feeling that is perfectly reasonable. The situation you find yourself in is the exact situation that would cause this exact feeling in any human that had a non-stone heart. In that case, you can tell yourself, This feeling is legitimate. My circumstances are not good therefore I am feeling not good.

Sometimes feelings are liars. Sometimes we feel something and it isn’t true. This is the reason that feelings get such a bad rap. Feelings aren’t facts. In this case, you remind yourself of the facts. You fill your mind with truth and pray your heart will catch on.

No matter what, shame is never the answer.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising
the
shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2 ESV

The problem perpetuates itself when we attach shame to certain feelings.

I should never feel unappreciated because then I’m not being humble.

I should never feel hurt because then I’m not forgiving.

I should never feel helpless because then I don’t have faith.

I should never feel fearful because then I’m a bad Christian.

I should never feel lonely because then I’m forgetting God is always with me.

I should never feel disappointed because God has a plan.

We are not bad for feeling unappreciated, hurt, helpless, fearful, lonely, disappointed or any other feeling. It is not a sin to feel a feeling. Denying you have those feelings to seem holy to yourself or others is harmful. Our righteousness does not stem from our ability to deny feelings, put on a happy face, or become numb to negative feelings. Our righteousness comes from Jesus.

Jesus had feelings.

Emotionally healthy Christians have feelings.

We are skipping a step in our emotional health when we deny our feelings and jump to, “God’s good and I’m good.” Let’s go through the steps of feeling unappreciated. 1. I recognize I feel unappreciated. 2. I realize why I feel unappreciated when I see circumstances in my life that would cause anyone to feel that way. 3. I’ve named my feeling. I remind myself that this is a valid feeling in this situation. 4. I pray that God would change those circumstances because everyone deserves to feel appreciated. 5. I remind myself how God feels about me — I am radically loved by Him, He loves a cheerful giver, and Jesus can relate to feeling unappreciated. 6. I am full in Him, and although it would have been nice, I can live without appreciation from others.

We have worked through that feeling without shame and covered in His grace, mercy, and righteousness. A shame blanket would have clouded that process and put a stop to the process at step one.

As children of God, we have to remind ourselves we are clothed in the splendid robe of righteousness instead of in the dark covering of shame.

So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes!’ Then He said to him, ‘See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.’
— Zechariah 3:4 HCSB

Our robe of righteousness aids our emotional heath by giving us real security.

Our robe of righteousness does not mask our ability to distinguish our feelings because we are wearing that robe solely because of Jesus. It is holy and good, and our Father sees us as holy and good because we are covered in His righteousness and kept in His care.

When we are wearing our robe, we have no shame before God as we work through our feelings honestly. We can acknowledge the truth of our circumstances that exist in our life in the fallen world. We can put a name to what we are feeling. Naming things is good. (It is the actual oldest profession, and Adam was the OG Namer.)

We can ask ourselves why we have the feelings we do without shame. We can determine if our feelings fit the circumstance. We can ask God to change our circumstances if they do. If our feelings are lying to us, contradicting His love for us, we can ask God to help us open our hearts to the truth.

I love the Nick Drake-ness of this song. Excited for this new album.

5 Books That Helped Me Heal

As spring warms my skin, I am transported in my mind to last summer. I feel myself gently swing back and forth in my hammock while I think, aren’t hammocks supposed to be relaxing?

I was in my head a lot last summer. I was seeking anything that would heal my anxiety after finally admitting that it was more than a temporary problem.

Many things were helpful in getting to a healthier place: therapy, journaling, new boundaries, confronting my codependent tendencies, medication, and much needed changes. The thing that made all of these things more effective was reading books that helped me process these changes.

You may have different mental health concerns for yourself or a family member than I did, but all of these books will have good lessons for you on your journey.

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1. All is Grace by Brennan Manning

 

Why?

This book isn’t a “self-help” type of book like the rest of the books on my list. It’s an autobiography of a deeply broken man. I cried tears more than once because of the incredible redemptive, redeeming, reckless love of our God. His trauma from disfunction was familiar even as it was far from my life experience. His tendency towards self-destruction and self-deception was familiar even though it was also very far from my life experience.

Quote:

My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.
— Brennan Manning, All is Grace

Other healing books by Manning:

Abba’s Child

Ruthless Trust

2. How People Heal by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

 

Why?

This book broke down how the ideas of Bible intersect mental health care in the simplest to understand way possible in chapter one. Even if you can only read chapter one, you’ll be better for it.

Quote:

I believed in the power of the Bible and knew that God’s truth could change any life. And I knew that if I could just teach others the same things and encourage them to know the truth as I was learning it, they would find the same kind of growth I discovered. Yet, at the medical center I saw people who had walked with God for years and many who knew more about God’s truth than I did. These people, laypeople and pastors alike, had been very diligent about prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Nevertheless, they were hurting, and for one reason or another, they had been unable to walk through their valley. The woman in the pink bathrobe was a missionary who had been called off the field because she was out of touch with reality — out of touch with who she really was and where she was in time. Although the realization I had had with this particular woman came in response to an extreme situation, I had the same realization over and over with hundreds of other more normal clients. To deal with marital, parenting, emotional, and work struggles, people had tried the things they had been taught, and they felt as though these spiritual answers had let them down. And I began to feel the same way. Again the realization hit me: This is going to be harder than I thought.
— Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, How People Grow

Other healing books by Cloud & Townsend:

Boundaries

Necessary Endings (Cloud)

3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

 

Why?

Peter, a veteran pastor in New York City, is so vulnerable with his own journey to becoming emotionally healthy, and he points out how damaging emotionally unhealthy people are in the local church. If every local church was proactive in making sure that discipleship that included emotional health was a priority, the body would be so much healthier and more whole.

Quote:

The problem, however, is that you inevitably find, as I did, something still missing. In fact, the spirituality of most current discipleship models often only adds an additional protective layer against people growing up emotionally. When people have authentic spiritual experiences — such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship — they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their interior world is disordered. Their apparent ‘progress’ then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing. They are deceived. I know. I lived that way for almost seventeen years. Because of the spiritual growth in certain areas of my life and in those around me, I ignored the glaring signs of emotional immaturity that were everywhere in and around me.
— Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

4. The Wisdom of You Heart by Marc Schelske

 

Why?

I met Marc at a writer’s conference in Portland when this book was just a seed. He was honest about his struggles with perfectionism and insecurities. Several years later, I read his book and it freed me from a lot of shame about my emotions. I’m an enneagram 3. If you’re an enneagram 3, 7, or 8, you are in the active triad that suppresses feelings by focusing your energy on other things. Becoming in touch with my feelings has been a process, and this book was integral in that process.

With emotions, God gave us a gift, not a curse, a small reflection of God’s own experience.
— Marc Schelske, The Wisdom of Your Heart

5. The Gift Of Being Yourself by David Benner

 

Why?

Knowing God is not something you can integrate into your life and actions fully until you know yourself. This book was full of “ah ha” moments about how the self relates to God. I flagged a third of the pages because it held an important truth.

Quote:

Self-deception occurs automatically. This is part of what psychologists mean when they say that the defense mechanisms operate in the unconscious. It is also part of what theologians mean when they speak of original sin. We don’t really have to choose self-deception. It is — to use contemporary computer jargon — the default option.
— David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

I listened to this a bunch last summer in the hammock. Still is a fav.

The Detriment of Shame Because of Anxiety

I believe God likes me. It is good.

To get to this place of excepting God’s acceptance of me, I had to let go of my shame about fear.

Do not be anxious about anything. These words come straight from Jesus’s mouth. I feel shame because I find myself anxious every day.

Emotions are not sin. 

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We have five core emotions: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. (Anyone seen Inside Out?) Every emotion we have is either a variation of intensity or a mixture of these emotions.

As we accept that Jesus was human, we have to accept that he had these same core emotions too. It isn’t hard to believe because we can see him display all of these emotions at different points in our gospel story. Jesus never let those emotions lead to sin, but in my life that has happened.

We see Jesus joyful often. I imagine Him full of joy on that borrowed donkey entering Jerusalem. We see Him sad often, especially at the news of the death of His friend Lazarus. We see him angry as He turned over tables at the temple. We see Him disgusted when the Pharisees demand a sign. (He had just fed 4,000 people for goodness sake.)

We are slow to admit that Jesus displayed the emotion of fear. Why is that?

Maybe it is because we have watered down God’s Holy Word into platitudes that we can hand each other and convince ourselves that we were helpful with our Christian clichés.

Maybe it is because we’ve heard things from the pulpit that make us believe fear is a sin.

This Scripture is good, but the enemy can manipulate it like he tried to do with Jesus in the desert to make us think our fear is sin.

  • Do not worry about tomorrow.

  • God did not give you a spirit of fear.

  • Perfect love cast out fear.

  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.

  • Do not fear. God is with you.

There is an extremely emotional piece of the gospel that I believe shows Jesus experiencing extreme fear.

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ’Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’
— Luke 22:39-46 ESV

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about sweating drops of blood:

Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. Severe mental anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system to invoke the stress- Fight-or-flight response to such a degree as to cause hemorrhage of the vessels supplying the sweat glands. It has been suggested that acute fear and extreme stress can cause hematidrosis.

If we believe Jesus sweat drops of blood, He must have been under extreme fear, stress, anxiety, and experiencing fight-or-flight.

Reread this passage in the NIV translation with the emotion of fear in mind. How do you experience fear? What physically happens in your body when the emotion of fear takes control of your mind?

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’
— Luke 22:41-46 NIV

Knowing Jesus experienced this emotion takes away the enemy’s ability to shame me over my own emotion of fear.

I experience fear. That fear keeps me alive. That fear is a core emotion that I cannot dispose of.

Our goal cannot be to rid our lives of fear.

Here’s a better goal: know that God accepts you in your fear.

Our fear does not surprise Him or alarm Him. He created us with emotions, and He experiences emotions.

It is easy to think we can just turn to God whenever we have fear, but if we are so ashamed of our fear that we want to hide away from God, how can we seek His help?

I rid myself of the shame of my fear, and I am eager to allow God to help me work through my fear and anxiety.

We don’t cut fear out of our life. We experience that fear and work through those emotions with a God that knows what fear feels like.

Anxiety is such a big part of my life right now, I don’t think I could accept that God likes me if I didn’t realize that God understood my anxiety or that I didn’t need to feel shame about my anxiety.

To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened. In John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (11:33)... The gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to His emotions and uninhibited in expressing them. The Son of Man did not scorn of reject feelings as fickle and unreliable. They were sensitive antennae to which He listened carefully and through which He perceived the will of His Father for congruent speech and action.
— Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

If you experience shame over your fear, I encourage you to go back over those verses that can either be a cliché or a balm to your soul. Look at the verse with new eyes. See the words coming from a God who knows fear and never wants to shame you.

His Word actually gives us an antidote to shame. That antidote is an emotion. God actually commands us to have an emotion to counteract the negative effects of shame. We are told to have confidence in John’s first letter to God’s children.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
— 1 John 2:28 ESV

He goes on to say:

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
— 1 John 3:19-21 ESV

Have confidence before God. Allow your heart, mind, soul, and body to feel that you can trust and rely on God. Have confidence that God likes you.

God likes you, even when you are fearful because you’re never going to be without fear.

Here’s a song because music is good and wearing the struggle is honest.

Keep Learning From Mister Rogers, Your Soul Will Thank You

As soon as Fandango told me our town had a viewing, I absconded to the theater to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the new Mister Rogers documentary. It was a moving movie, and even though my husband and I bought our tickets late and had to sit in different rows, it was such an enjoyable theater experience. Stephen Thompson from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast expressed that “the movie feels like you are getting warmly and softly hugged for an hour and a half,” and that’s the best description that could ever be said.

Why was it such a feel-good experience? It is rare for someone to tell you-you are liked. It’s even rarer to be told that you are liked just the way you are. Mister Rogers said it, sang it, believed it, and lived it. Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who attended seminary on his lunch hour over a period of eight years. He believed that God liked him just the way he was and he should, therefore, feel that way about every God-created person. He looked through the screen and openly invited the whole world to be his neighbor, and he believed that everyone who knew they were liked would in-turn like their neighbors also. The world could be a very different place, not because of just one sweater-clad friend, but it could be different because of God who is love, the Holy Spirit that Rogers relied on as translator of this Devine message, and us — his neighbors.

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As a little girl, Mister Rogers was my friend. He made me feel safe and heard. He told me things I still need to hear as an adult.

1. Express your feelings.

Mister Rogers frequently and intentionally included the message that we all have feelings and it is good to express those feelings in healthy ways. Last year, I became very discouraged in the ministry. My husband and I had been serving at a very missional church for twenty years, and we were both feeling burnout. We began seeing a therapist to help us work through our tough time, and one of the things he told me was that I was afraid of my feelings. He said to me, “It is like you view your feelings as a dark closet, and if you let one feeling affect you that you will be engulfed in the dark closet and you won’t be able to get out.” As an adult, I’ve had to relearn that lesson that we all have feelings, and I’ve had to allow myself to feel and express those feelings.

There’s no ‘should’ or should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

2. Slow down.

One of the most countercultural pieces of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was the pace of the show. His slow speech and slow movements were a subtle cue, as was his life-sized traffic light glowing yellow. The show had the ambiance of a Saturday spent at grandma’s house. He would often bring out simple props like paper, instruments, or cups and play with the props in an unstaged, unpracticed way, letting the paper accidentally tear where he didn’t intend or letting the cups fall across the table. He gave his neighbors the nudge to accept that it is good to slow down and try new things. When my husband and I experienced ministry burnout, we went to a week long ministry retreat that was intentionally slow paced and were reminded of the importance that rest has in the kingdom work. As an adult, I need slow. I need permission to try and fail. I need to let the cups fall sometimes and pick them back up again.

It seems to me, though that our world needs more time to wonder and to reflect about what is inside, and if we take time we can often go much deeper as far as our spiritual life is concerned than we can if there’s constant distraction.
— Fred Rogers, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

3. Be yourself.

Vulnerability became a mantra and catch-phrase to many after Brene´ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame when viral in 2010, but Mister Rogers was modeling vulnerability every day in his neighborhood in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He sang his easily-poked-fun-of self-composed lyrics, wore his mom-made sweaters, and never tried to be someone he was not. Even when being interviewed on edgy late night talk shows, he spoke slowly and appeared to be the same guy who welcomed me with a song and a shoe-swap as a kid. One scene in the documentary we are shown footage of his neighborhood show where his shares his love of swimming with his neighbors. He is completely at home with himself, even when he is donning a speedo and swimming loops in the pool. We get the feeling that it never even crosses his mind to not be completely himself, and we are told that we made today special by just being ourselves.

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

4. Invite everyone to be your neighbor.

The genius of Mister Rogers is that he was able to translate the second part of the Great Commandment into simple, secular terms and model loving your neighbor in a practical way. This command is a great struggle for everyone. Loving and liking others doesn’t come naturally, but doing this is essential to Christian life: seeking wholistic ministry, valuing and carrying out the Great Commission, having a healthy family life, confronting racial prejudice and bias, and seeing the image of God and the preciousness of life in each and every neighbor.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor’ — the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor is the ultimate appreciation!
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

5. Remember the invisible.

Posted above Mister Roger’s desk was a saying in French from The Little Prince. It said, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ This quote is very much like what Paul penned in Second Corinthians 4:18, “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” We must always be focused on the unseen, realizing that these things are not just important — but essential.

Beside my chair is a saying in French. It inspires me every day. It’s a sentence from Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and it reads, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ The closer we get to know the truth of that sentence, the closer I feel we get to wisdom. That which has real value in life in any millennium is very simple. Very deep and very simple! It happens inside of us — in the ‘essential invisible’ part of us, and that is what allows everyone to be a potential neighbor.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

Can we see the world as our neighborhood? Can we see the good in others and like them just the way they are? Can we recognize our feelings and express them in beautiful ways? Can we remember to keep our eyes on the invisible, unseen Kingdom work? Can we slow down rest, play, and be vulnerable? I think we can. Mister Rogers showed us it could be done.

 

I still need all these lessons as much at forty-one as I did when I was four. 

 

I think the big question for our soul is this: Can we accept that we are liked by God just the way we are, not the way we’ve decided we need to be to fit in or to try to be liked? Can we accept that God likes the deep down person we are at the soul-level of our creation, with all our faults and feelings? I’m asking myself that question.

Why do I feel the need to question it?

I think I need to recapture the childlike faith that didn’t question Mister Rogers sitting on my living room carpet with my pigtails in front of our console television.

God likes me just the way I am. Can I say it, sing it, believe it, and live it? Can you?

           Photo by  Pawel Kadysz  on  Unsplash

          Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash

The Kindle version of this is on sale for $0.99!