The Secret Lie of Shame

A few years ago, I cut the cord. (This means I don’t have cable - or satellite TV.) I don’t miss it really unless an awards show or major sporting event happens. Then I’m forced to go elsewhere to watch said event. Since I’m a total homebody, ‘going elsewhere’ usually looks like reading about what happened online the next day because of course; there is no TV news.

I recently discovered I could catch some awards shows the day after traditional broadcast on HULU (Yay!). If you missed it, Lady Gaga made a brave move against sexual violence at the Oscars this year with her performance of “Til it Happens to You” where survivors of sexual assault came on stage while she sang the final notes. It was a powerful moment.

The performance shed light on an important issue of sexual assault running rampant on college campuses as documented in the movie, The Hunting Ground. This is an important problem for sure. Abuse, of course, is not just on college campuses, it's everywhere. While sexual abuse is the most egregious form, it is not the only form. Physical and emotional abuse can be just as damaging. 

Abuse is the only crime committed where the perpetrator walks away feeling justified while the victim walks away feeling guilt and shame.

There’s a distinct difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says I made a mistake, shame says I am a mistake. Shame starts early – in childhood. In most cases it starts with some sort of abuse.  In my case it started with abuse.

Victims of abuse always feel like they have to hide what happened because shame says it’s their fault. If only I had been smarter, prettier (less pretty), faster, better the abuser might not have had reason to target me. There is no truth in that of course, our brains are just trying to make sense of what is senseless. The real blame of abuse always lies solely on the perpetrator. 

If left undealt with, the shame that’s left behind infiltrates and becomes a part of us. It feeds us lies about ourselves. ‘You’re not good enough’, ‘you’re not strong enough’, ‘you are not worthy of love’ are just a few of the most popular. These lies play like sick recordings in our psyche and become the filter for which everything we do and say passes through. Most of us are so used to this recording we don’t even realize it’s happening.

If emotional healing doesn’t occur, this insanity lives to re-create the dysfunction in our adult lives. This is why abuse runs rampant in our marriages, our families, our workplaces teaching and enforcing its wicked ways in the hearts our children and anyone else who will listen.

The only way to eradicate shame is to call it out. Speak its ugly name out loud. Own it – talk to someone you trust about the incidents in your life that have led to shame. When you do this, the shame will be released from your life and you will begin to become unchained.

Calling it out is exactly what Lady Gaga and those brave souls did at the Oscars that night – as well as those who told to us their stories in The Hunting Ground. I’m glad they’re a part of what needs to be a global discussion.

Here's to freedom from shame... let's make it great!