It may sound surprising but until February of this year I hadn’t identified the part that shame played in my life and my interactions. When I took notice of it for the first time, I couldn’t believe all the places it had sneaked in and was powerfully determining my behaviour and feelings about myself.
I felt like I then was involved in hard core weeding. Uncovering the shame and tearing it out. I thought I was doing quite well in my battle against it. I probably am.
BUT. Here’s the Real Talk. I need to talk about what that shame did to me.
Last year I fell in love with a man who wasn’t my husband. I didn’t act on the feelings and in fact I tried to end our friendship. He agreed that we needed to do that. So we tried. We tried so hard. We had no contact with each other. We told our spouses how we felt about each other, and we separated ourselves.
We managed two months, and then opportunity presented and resolve disappeared. We kept trying to stop things, but it was too hard. This post isn’t to talk about what has happened since, but instead I want to examine why in the situation of an extra marital affair, I found it too shameful to ask people to help me to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to honour God. I wanted to honour our covenants. We wanted to not hurt each other.
Shame stopped both myself and the other from telling people that we needed help. When our resolve had disappeared we talked about this together. We asked why, before too much harm had been done, we’d been unable to go to our christian brothers and sisters and say “ we get on far too well. We don’t think this is healthy for our marriages. We want to end our friendship and put resource into our marriages. This is going to be hard because we will miss each other like crazy. So please can you pray for us, and fill the gaps for us, and keep us accountable. Remind us why we are doing this hard thing. Praise us when we do well. Hold us to our resolve. Support our spouses in this. Love our families. ”
So why didn’t I say those things?
I didn’t want to expose my failings, my weaknesses, my hurting heart. I felt as though we were doing the worst thing and if we told anyone they would condemn us and dislike us and judge us and shun us. I blamed it on other people. I said that ‘they’ wouldn’t understand. ‘They’ wouldn’t be able to help.
A time came, however when I did tell my story. My friends have responded with grace and love and compassion and have put a huge amount of time into helping me stay on the path I’ve chosen. ‘They’ text me, and mail me, and phone, and give me gifts and check up on my heart. ‘They’ hug me and hold me and let me cry (wet and snotty) on their shoulders. ‘They’ respond to late night calls and show up in my house when I need them. When I can’t think straight ‘they’ write grocery lists for me and walk my dog. When I slip up or give into a temptation to do the wrong thing,’they’ don’t turn their backs. ‘They’ see that I am just hurting myself, and they help me get back on the path.
The issue was not my friends, my community but I believed the lies which shame told me about them. I know now that it was my own shame that held me in bondage. I didn’t realise, that as the words in the picture at the top say – The truth is strong.
Today I looked on wordpress at blogs with the tag ‘affair’. Almost everyone is writing under a pseudonym, myself included. The need to write about this and many other subjects anonymously is quite appropriate. We don’t want to cause hurt to other people; we need a ‘safe’ place to process or tell our story.
But are we evading the real talk, the honest talk in our day to day lives with flesh and blood people who know us and love us as well?
If it is shame that holds you back, don’t let it do that to you anymore.
Shame loves to keep us in a place where we are not meant to be. It keeps us feeling dirty and tainted, and unlovely and lacking. It does that because it is not of God and the enemy who loves shame knows that if we stop believing in shame we become light and hope to each other.
We tell our stories and we gain encouragement from knowing that we are not the only person to have done that, felt that, said that, been abused like that.
In seeing that you have made it to 20 years of marriage post affair, I can believe it for myself too. In hearing me tell you that marriage is hard work but I’m going to counselling and being patient, maybe you will feel less alone and have the courage to do the same.
Whether it’s our experience of depression, or mental illness, or eating disorders or the aftermath of abuse or difficult family circumstances we need not be ashamed of it.
It’s our story. It’s how it is. It’s real life. real talk.
Our shared humanity – the strengths and weaknesses of it – can be a powerful tool in enabling each of us to live fully as we are meant to be.
We diminish that power when we allow shame to cause us to hide our weakness from each other.
God is bigger than all of this. He has said his strength is made perfect in weakness.
So let’s show our weakness.
Tell shame to let us uncover ourselves.
It’s time to let God’s strength be made perfect in our lives and our stories.
Today I am linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday on Shame