Siobhan and I sit in comfy chairs on the patio. She dabs at her latte, foam crinkling in the cup, and I sip decaf English Breakfast tea with a splash of honey and cream. We wrap blankets around our chests, our laps, our feet, because spring is still springing, and the sun is a sneaky, frigid version of not-so-warm. Although the chairs lean towards each other, they mostly face the blue and green of sky and grass, aimed at backyard fence. I think this makes it easier. Like walking side by side, the intimacy of eye contact becomes a secondary effect, and while we’re still getting to know each other, it’s easier to share those scary and vulnerable pieces of our stories.
Because we soon find ourselves talking about shame.
It wasn’t part of the agenda, but when you have time and space in conversation, when there’s that much room to breathe, and you feel safe and secure under a lap blanket, you run with it. You go for it.
Siobhan stares straight ahead; tears glisten in her eyes, as she tells me the grip shame has held on her life. I didn’t realize how much I’d let it define me until I began writing about it, she states simply. It wasn’t a journaling exercise. My friend isn’t a blogger, nor is she an aspiring author—but in the process of writing a paper for a seminary class, she found herself going back to the idea of shame. And so she began researching shame from a biblical perspective, finding solace in the brave woman who touched the hem of the Healer’s robe; she looked at the concept of shame through a modern-day cultural perspective, wondering how she might apply this to the teenagers she worked with on a daily basis.
“And did you use Brene Brown as a reference?” I ask her, nodding, because of course Brown must have been the instigating force behind her realization.
Siobhan shakes her head, no. She’s never heard of the woman.
I run upstairs, skimming crowded bookshelves for Daring Greatly, wondering how Brown’s words will speak truth to our hearts today. I return, book in hand, nestling under the blanket again, while my friend fixedly stares at the fence in front of her.
We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us—that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough—and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame (61).
“She took the words right out of my mouth,” Siobhan whispers, haunted.
I begin to read all the underlined passages in chapter 3, “Understanding and Combating Shame.” Siobhan’s tears now flow freely, while the author’s words impact our deepest selves, page by page, underlined word after word. For the next hour, we breathe the shame researcher’s words in and out; we interject thoughts and reflections from our own stories, or she tells me another excerpt from her paper.
Then we make our way back to the center of the chapter, to the crux of the entire book perhaps; we muse aloud as to how we might imitate Brown’s “warrior gremlin moves that are the most effective path to shame resilience…” (80). Like the strings we tied around our fingers when we were little girls, in an effort to remember and not forget whatever that thing was, we vow to do the same with lap blankets. Our lives don’t lend us the luxury of living wrapped under the safety and security of the lap blanket every hour of the day, so when that treat comes, we’ll choose to remember Brown’s words. We’ll choose to practice shame resilience, even if just for a moment.
We’ll practice courage and we’ll reach out, “…not despite our vulnerabilities, but because of them” (80).
We’ll talk to ourselves the way we’d talk to someone we love. Like the blanket, we’ll lend comfort to ourselves.
And finally, we’ll own our story—we’ll not bury our shame, letting it fester or define us. But we’ll write the ending.
Might this practice, this challenge be the same for you?
Regardless of whether or not you end up reading Daring Greatly, every time you snuggle up beneath the comfort of your lap blanket, might you receiving a showering of grace as you begin to practice your own warrior gremlin moves: practice courage, love yourself and own your story.
I’m reaching for my lap blanket now.
Come back Wednesday April 23 for the discussion post, led by Sarah Caldwell. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. On Twitter, the official Red Couch Book Club hashtag is #redcouchbc. Our May book is Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament.
How can you practice shame resilience today?
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Image credit: Ryan Hyde