40 How Did We Get Here?Posted: November 8, 2012
Whoever welcomes a little child like this in My Name welcomes Me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:5-6
Past e-letters have talked about some of the signs and effects of perfectionism and ideas for healing from perfectionism. How did we get here in the first place? Why are we so perfectionistic?
The simple answer…shame. Shame drives us to perfectionism because we strive to rid ourselves of the selfsame shame through performance. Shame feels like guilt, and so we conclude that we can deal with shame as we deal with guilt. This does not work because shame has a completely different source than guilt. We deal with our shame by trying to atone for the bad feelings in our souls. We think that if we act in new and “right” (in other words, self-righteous) ways, our shame will go away. When the shame does not go away, we conclude that we did not find the right way. We then seek even more diligently to find ways that will work in ridding us from this internal feeling of badness.
How did we come by these feelings of badness or shame? We perceive shame subjectively. Much of it came from our childhood. We experienced shame when others sinned against us; examples are physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, excessive punishment, harsh words, lack of love and affection, which all scar a child’s soul. We also experienced shame through our own sin. Even though we confess and receive forgiveness the Accuser still condemns us for past sins.
I give you the following example from my adult life. When I am with people and they laugh, I sometimes personalize it and think they are laughing at me. When I do something goofy and someone laughs, I feel shame. My wife and I have talked about this extensively. I appreciate her perspective. When she is with me and laughs at my goofiness, she wants to laugh with me. She is celebrating me. She has a loving attitude towards me. Laughter for me can be a trigger by reminding me of others laughing at me when I was a child.
What triggers our shame? Knowing our triggers helps us deal with our shame. Understanding triggers gives us insight into the source of our shame. The presence of these triggers indicates unresolved issues.
We want to run away from our shame, hide it or push it away. None of these tactics work. We need to deal with the roots of our shame. Ultimately, we need to forgive those who hurt us. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a process and can take much time, especially for those of us who experience horrendous abuse and neglect in childhood.
We have much to learn about the roots of our shame. The above is only an introduction.
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