Shame and Authenticity {Book Club}

Guess what the headline was in the newspaper last Wednesday?– A cure was found for Hepatitis C!

Guess what my dad died of four weeks ago last Wednesday?– Complications from Hep C.

Let’s just say there was a flurry of emotions as Dad’s doctor is the leading researcher and was quoted often. To know Dad got the best of the best potential treatment, to know he lived MUCH longer than most with the disease, to know he was able to engage life more than most with the disease. All is blessing and mercy and we are grateful. To know, no matter how wonderful the news is, it can’t reverse the reality he is dead, is painful.

And this is why we are reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown. Becasue we live with the tension of the already/not yet of God’s kingdom. Amen? Amen. Mercies and pain. Both are true.  Last week’s conversation touched on worthiness and the lines between sacred and secular. If you haven’t had a chance to read through the comments, it’s worth your time to do so.

Today we are finishing the introduction (Things that get in the way) and looking at Guidepost #1 (Cultivating Authenticity). Next week we’ll read and discuss Guidepost #2.

She wrote:

“Here’s the bottom line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way — especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.”

Doesn’t that about sum up the initial consequences of the fall?! and what has gotten in the way ever since? When Brene’ talked about “how to” being a seductive short cut, that rang true for me. Wouldn’t it be tempting to have a short life of “how to not have shame?” But as we saw with fears last week at The Grove, there is not a “how to” that applies to each of us. But we are not without hope! Finding ways and places and people to talk with about our lives IS the how to.

I appreciate that Brene’ stressed it doesn’t have to be many people you talk to, but we each do need a person. Do you have one? Or several? Have you been able to foster safety both within your context and with someone who knew you pre-field? I have found having people in both camps has been life giving to me.

“Shame keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us. Shame is all about fear.” I love the idea of a “shame storm” and bet that you, too, can relate to being caught up in them before. The Accuser would love to keep us in the storm, wouldn’t he? Comparing us to each other, comparing our ministries, our children, our language abilities, our histories and coming up short time after time. But the Good Shepherd reaches in and say, “There are ways out of this storm, for I came that you might have life.”

I loved the way she described what shame looks like. “According to Dr. Hartling, in order to deal with shame, some of us move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. Some of us move toward by seeking to appease and please. And some of us move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame.”

Last week I drove from Kansas to Colorado and decided to stop at the border and take my picture. Well, let’s just say the results brought these principles to life as the wind was blowing (sort of like a shame storm).

shame storm

Can we say too close? Too far away? And finally, not perfect, but good enough? Shame hopes we’ll give up before the “good enough.”

And then on to authenticity, Guidepost #1! (Which we had a big dose of last week at The Grove!) I have a feeling many people fall into approaching authenticity the way Brene used to: either you have it or you don’t. Instead of seeing authenticity as something to be cultivated and more of a conscious choice. This was a rich chapter and I look forward to seeing what parts you’d like to tease out and discuss in the comment section.

What has gotten in your way of living the authentic life God wants for us? Thoughts on the chapter “Things that get in the way?” Are you aware of how the shame storms in your life look?

I’ll see you in the comments :).


Photo credit Sprengben [why not get a friend] via flickr


  1. Kimberly Todd March 11, 2014

    Thoughts on things that get in the way: I hate boot-strapping, trying harder and resolutions. It was clarifying to ditch the “how-to” approach. The stuff we try to fix (again and again) is very rarely about a knowledge gap. There are things that get in the way and they have names: shame, fear, vulnerability. The point that shame-resilient people speak shame–naming it, talking about feelings and asking for what they need–is fresh insight.

    From Cultivating Authenticity: I love the phrase “the audacity of authenticity.” The pushback she talks about scares me, but I think I agree that the best gift we can give to others is our own repetitive choice to show up and be real.

    1. Amy Young March 12, 2014

      Kim, YES oh YES to lack of information rarely being the problem for the deeper life things! :). Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if it were?  And on authenticity, I’m finding I have a couple of people in my life right now that want to “help” or “fix” the grief I’m in. And I am recoiling BIG TIME from them. I don’t want helping … I just want their presence in my life.

      Like Brene (and many others) I have found authenticity has costs — but the benefits have ultimately out weighed (even though i have paid greatly for it, I can’t imagine what other costs I would have paid. There’s always a cost … but thankfully, also benefits and if one is following the prompting of the holy spirit, well, you are not going alone!)

  2. Danielle Wheeler March 11, 2014

    “When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn’t work out, that can trigger shame for me: ‘I’m not good enough.’ If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay.  If the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, I’m in big trouble.  I get going by making authenticity the priority.”

    I loved this quote, because it is such a good way to evaluate and find what your goals really are.  So many of us struggle with “not good enough” feelings.  So to realize that comes from  goals of acceptance and approval?  Well, that’s an uncomfortable, but extremely beneficial discovery.


    1. Amy Young March 12, 2014

      Danielle, thanks for pulling that nugget out! And a quick check is a good tool to add to a tool bag! Funny, years ago with one of my sisters we did the whole acceptance/approval dance on a decision she had made. She wanted the family’s approval and could not be satisfied with acceptance. Which I know is a little off of what Brene and you are talking about … I’ve just gone stream of conscious 🙂

    2. Shelly March 13, 2014

      I liked this quote, too, and have decided I need to keep it in front of me as I prepare for a conference presentation in May. I am too easily persuaded (by myself) that others are more capable and brilliant, so why would anyone want to listen to my half-baked ideas about teaching. (That’s not my preferred self-message, but it is there, nonetheless.) So, her quote about the aim being “real” is VERY helpful to me.

  3. Brittany March 12, 2014

    The author’s point about “how-to” hit me because so often I get caught up in how?!  But she got me.  I already know how.  Haven’t I just not been willing to go through all the junk?  I want to avoid the mess, the pain.  I’m afraid.  Week one, I was completely overwhelmed by what I was reading.  I don’t think I gave myself proper time and attention to process what I was reading.  I know that my heart needs this.  

    During my reading, I spent some time searching the Scriptures for Truth about shame.  What a comforting thing to do while thinking about all the yuck!  Glory to Jesus, the One who had no shame of His own, but who bore our shame.  And no there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  A week or two ago, when we were talking about poetry, one of you lovelies posted about praying through Biblical poetry and Psalm 25 was mentioned.  What a perfect Psalm for me as I walk through this reading!  Wow!

    Another thing that really resonated with me is when she said that “being imperfect does not mean being inadequate.”  Such freedom for me in that one phrase!  When I make a mistake by yelling at my children, the feelings that well up in me are that I am unfit to be a mother.  I’m still so new at this cross cultural thing, and week by week, there are SO many imperfections, and the voice that screams the loudest in my head is that I’m not M material.  I just want to do it all perfectly!  And frankly, it’s impossible.  And it’s exhausting.

    One last thing (I’m telling you, I got a lot out of this!).  “Most of us have shame triggers around being perceived as self-indulgent or self-focused.”  I was just talking with a friend about this a couple of weeks ago.  In every Bible study/women’s group I was involved with in the States, there was always at least one woman who made everything about them.  Everything that woman shared revolved around her.  I’ve started going to a Bible study here, and I’ve had to miss pretty frequently because of migraine headaches.  My friend (also an “m”) was encouraging me to go to the study even when I have these headaches to allow the women to support me and pray for me in these times, and to allow them to see my weakness and hold me up in it.  I realized that my fear is that I would be seen as self-focused.  That I would be THAT lady in the Bible study.  That is my biggest roadblock to authenticity.

    There is much to pray through!

    1. Amy Young March 12, 2014

      Brittany, I’m so glad this lead to many rich places for you! (As you know, I love this book too because it helps me come and and frame certain topics I’ve only heard from the church — this allows me to come at them from another direction and see them, myself, and the scriptures afresh). Doesn’t it amaze, humble and bless you all the more that Christ was willing to take on our shame! Wow and thank you.

      I did a guest post several years ago based on the difference between being a perfectionist (which God is not asking us to be) and an excellentist. I got the idea after talking to multiple women on the field who wanted to do everything perfect and were miserable because they couldn’t be perfect. If perfect is the goal, we on a sinking ship (until heaven!). I remember reading in A Work of Heart by Reggie Macneal that David was a man who when he fell, fell towards God. And that has become my hope — that I’ll “fall” less, but that when i do “fall” I am still doing it in such a way that in the end I’m falling towards God. I’m going to be praying for those voices in your head that needle you you aren’t cut out for this work. May you find the volume button on them, and even if they won’t stop, at least they will be on mute and your can go about your day!

      A migraine, might be a safe step towards others in your community. I cannot imagine who would be anything but compassionate about severe (and out of your control) headaches!! You could maybe test out your community and see how they handle them … and if they respond in love, you can take other small forays :).

  4. Kate March 13, 2014

    Thanks so much for sharing your authentic story, Amy! I LOVE some Brene Brown. I’ve read Gifts of Imperfection and am currently on Daring Greatly. 🙂

    1. Amy Young March 14, 2014

      Me too! And Daring Greatly is also one I enjoyed … it was hard to pick between that one and Gifts of imperfection

  5. Shelly March 13, 2014

    “Shame keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us. Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid people won’t like us if they know the truth…how much we’re struggling, or, believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring (sometimes it’s just as hard to own our strengths as our struggles)” (51, italics mine).  That phrase hit me as I read it. I’m not sure how to explain it. If I am “wonderful” at some particular time, others are there to knock me down with a figurative, “You are not permitted to be better (happier, more blessed) than me!” And if I am really honest here, I sometimes do that to others in my heart. I might not rejoice fully with them as they rejoice because I wanted that experience, or I’m still stuck in a hard place, or any number of other reasons. If I do that to others, why shouldn’t others do it to me?  Thus I feel like I have to tone down my “wonderfulness,” or I find it hard to name my strengths and to work from them. Crazy, isn’t it?

    And this had me thinking about the role Christian tradition might have in this shame-way of thinking. If I revel in my strengths, am I thought “proud”? That is sinful. Should I be ashamed of being proud of what I do well? Or should I brush aside my strengths and continue to do everything but what I am good at so that I don’t look too proud–and thus, sinful? Ugh!

    So maybe it is best here to pull in Brene’s definition of authenticity: “…the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are” (59). “Cultivating the courage to be imperfect…exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are made of strength and struggle…” (60).

    This is going to take some work–letting go and embracing. I like the e. e. cummings quote (“To be nobody-but-yourself…”). Brene closes the quote with this: “‘Staying real’ is one of the most courageous battles that we’ll ever fight” (61).

    1. Amy Young March 14, 2014

      One of the aspects of her writing I appreciate is the call to let go AND take up. Brene doesn’t just say “do less!” or the other extreme “do more!” There is an intentionality that requires discernment. It seems almost a living out of praying with ceasing.

    2. Carolyn April 2, 2014

      I love that definition of authenticity: “…the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are”  

      I’m in the midst of starting a course and have been away for several weeks of March, but I really wanted to do this book with all of you and am satisfying myself for the moment with catching up on the comment-conversations!  LOVING what I’m finding, and will still get Brene’s book and read it soon… thank you all for your honesty!

  6. Jenny March 13, 2014

    Wow! What a thought provoking read so far. So when Velvet Ashes did the “one word” thing at the beginning of the year, I couldn’t really land the plane on my word and so never got around to sharing but basically it was the non-existent word that is the combination of vulnerability and authenticity. And though I have already been seeing God provide areas to grow in this, this book is a great tool in the process.

    I agree with Shelly about the way we handle strengths in Christian culture… and don’t get me wrong here but it seems a little Buddhist.  I realize it’s a stretch but since Buddhism is all about “losing self” when we as Christians make it proud to live out of our strengths and gifting we are essentially saying “don’t be a self.” I think Christ says the opposite- he elevates people and calls them to be more fully themselves and more fully who he created them to be and I think we need to move that way in Christian culture, to celebrate our individualities and to praise God more as a result!But getting off that soapbox

    I had a meeting with my bosses on Monday and wasn’t really excited about the decisions we were making for various reasons, though I knew they were good. So I just hid my issues (or at least attempted to) and put them on others ect. That night I was reading the book and the Spirit was like “that was you today… hiding your vulnerabilities and not being authentic and ‘owning your story.'” It required several emails for me to fully own my issues, apologize and figure out what was going on but it was so cool to see the power of the shame of how I interacted with them disperse as we talked through it. I know I have talked about light a few times- but I think Brene really hits on a Biblical principle when talking about how sharing releases the power of shame or sin, the Bible just talks about it in the context of bringing things into light 🙂

  7. Carolyn April 2, 2014

    Jenny, what a brave word/s to choose – authenticity and vulnerability!  Yikes!  Good for you.  Love how the Spirit spoke so clearly to you while you read, and I love how you highlighted how Jesus calls us to become more fully ourselves.  Absolutely.  YES to celebrating our individualities!!

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