I recalled that event while I was washing dishes and preparing a meal for luncheon guests earlier today. As I thought about it and my inward reaction, that unpleasant unworthy feeling, I understood it's meaning for what it was, like a light bulb turning on, what that emotion had been that had transmitted a negative feeling into my psyche. I felt "shamed," and that it was an undeserved scolding, an unnecessary confrontation. The dress that had gotten me into trouble had been a favorite of mine, a jersey print of turquoise, looking great with my bronzed tan. I'd sewn the dress myself. Thinking back on it, quite possibly if my pastor had approached it from a different angle it wouldn't have been so humiliating or embarrassing to me. We know someone cares when they care. It was the only time while under his ministry that he ever talked to me in a one-to-one conversation other than a greeting. If you can call that a conversation. A positive context would have balanced and evened it out.
As a teacher, I've seen many children shamed by teachers, principals, and parents. I've even had to take action when I've seen it go too far, over the top with the punishments and demeaning actions of an adult to a child, that of a bully with the cornered defenseless weaker subject. One year I took it to the top, to the superintendent, wondering if I was witnessing emotional abuse on my school campus. I spoke up for the children, fearing job repercussions. After much inner debate, doing it anyway. Why? Someone had to--children were not being treated with dignity and respect--I had wondered who would do something about it, and that someone ended up being me. Un-pleasable out-of-line adults can destroy self-concepts quick-like in public shamings. I figured I was seeing this adult as someone who once was shamed by the demons in her past. I'm glad to say, my actions did make a difference. This adult began to manage her behavior with a less-aggressive attitude toward the students. I assumed that the-powers-that-be had a talk with her. Everyone on campus noticed a difference.
When my pastor called me in, I felt like a little kid going to the principal's office. After hearing my misdeed, it felt like I wasn't spiritual enough. Outward conformity to a set of rules was how the people in that church were judged, a formula that we adhered to in order to participate in the spiritual realm (I'm not speaking of moral or biblical mandates). Today such thinking is still happening in many churches, schools, and homes. Many times I find myself redirecting a conversation when I see the darts being thrown at the absent person, the one who is being disapproved of in some way. I saw it last week in two conversations with people who are dear Christians. They are unaware of their attitudes, the lack of true love and acceptance. The performance checklist that keeps track of behaviors. The link of "performance" to "spirituality" is often a "log" in the eye. This should not be. Sometimes I find myself doing it as well. My thinking darts tend to be thrown at the self-righteous who are so rigid that they forget to love unconditionally, keeping score, ignoring that it really is God who does the work in another's spiritual life, that we are called to be faithful to the task. This pious attitude irks me. But, it isn't right either. Love, true love, has acceptance and caring in its base. Standards do matter, holiness is to be desired and lived out, but God is the one who is the righteous judge. We are the servants, the proclaimers of the message, the believers in the truth that sets men and women free.
How does it happen? The list is long and hurtful. We've all felt some of these.
Pain . Shame . Dislike . Guilt . Hurt . Sorrow . Unfair treatment . Put-downs . Mistreatment . Harsh words . Abuse . Anger . Unloved . Unwanted . Neglect . Ignored . Bullied . Conflicts . distance . criticisms . disrespect . ???
NEGATIVE SELF PERCEPTION=>not good enough, faulty, unworthy, deficient, undesirable
Our emotional life needs the positive energy that comes from being valued. If it is lacking, there is little reason to go on. Life is too hard without the sense of worth. So often, people who have messed up will turn around when given a reason from someone else who sees their potential. Sometimes it wasn't much but it was enough. I've read the stories. To God, we ALL are of GREAT value. We were worth His son coming to earth to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.
The other day I saw a man around my age walking with his father in a store parking lot. His father was telling this man how he needed to park his car a certain way, his voice had that solicitous patient sound like you use with a little kid when they should be paying attention. I found myself feeling sorry for the son, that as a grown man he is not given the respect he deserves by a father who has failed to bring the dignity of adulthood into the conversation, a lack of equality in the relationship. Sometimes, it is as simple as not giving your opinion when it's not solicited. I have learned to pray instead of preach. To love instead of condemn. To acknowledge my stuff instead of acting like I'm perfect. When God provides the opportunities, I jump in and speak because I know He provided them. There is a big difference between the two. Much more gets accomplished when I do it God's way.
Look for ways to transmit positives into other lives. When you see pain in someone's life, be there for them. Help if you can. Even those in error need to be listened to without being argued under the table. Silence is often a greater communicator than unwelcome advice.
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Written in connection with, "When a Woman Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore
Available for purchase: Amazon Book Link is HERE
#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
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