Shame

1 Samuel 20:30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? (1 Sam. 20:30 NRS)

A father, a very powerful father, attempts to shame his son. Here shame is used as a tool of compliance or instrument of correction. Saul intends for his words to find their mark. Saul intended to inflict an emotional wound upon his son. Saul insults Jonathan’s mother and at the same time shames Jonathan.

The object of shame David. Saul seeks to use the friendship between David, son of Jesse, anointed of God, and the King’s son, His son, Jonathan, the son of Saul, the current King of Israel. Saul wants to kill David. Jonathan does not budge. Jonathan stays true to his friend but tries still to honor his father. For Saul it is an either/or while Jonathan is seeking a both/sand.

Jonathan does not deserve this load of pain. Pain, not just because of his friendship with David, but because Jonathan loves his father dearly. Family pain, well, sometimes it is a thorn in the flesh. Seldom, in fact, no one ever in any situation deserves to manipulated with shame.

I believe some of the worst emotional suffering that one can bear is when that shame is connected to family. We know how dangerous domestic violence can be. We know, or should know, that no one can hurt us more than someone we love. When shame is allowed to poison a relationship, it is very difficult to recover.

And then there is that shame that only we ourselves know about. That shame we hold secret. It is painful but we cannot let it go out of fear or because we believe the pain is partial punishment for what we have done. This hidden shame can actually produce physical events in our lives.

I am sure those who read this blog have an experiential experience with shame to some degree and still often have physical reactions when any memory connect to the shame comes to mind.

One of the most challenging potential obstacles to our spiritual health, growth, and strength is an entity (entity being defined as something that has separate and distinct existence and objective or conceptual reality) called shame.

Shame as an entity can be a shadow always floating in the depths of our unattended thoughts. It works to belittle, to minimize, emotionally bully us as it works in our lives, in our thoughts, our dreams, our conscious and subconscious minds.

I am indebted to the spiritual direction offered by Catherine Skurja, in her book Paradox Lost (Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.) This book reminded me of the spiritual struggle for our hearts and minds. Shame seeks to tear us down and never builds us up. What is worse, shame is hard to overcome.

Skurja provides a good practical theology of shame.  She writes, “• an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient as a person. • the self-judging the self. • a moment of humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound, one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity, or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. • …the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being.[1]

She then gives us a method for facing these issues when they come up. They are prayers of paradox. You answer shame with truth and love. Shame says, you have failed miserably. I for one would have to answer, “Yes, I failed miserably, and I am called by God.” Thank you for this blessing, Lord.

Her ultimate advice and (which I believe underlines her whole understanding of the dangers on the spiritual quest) “When in doubt of what God is like, we can look to Jesus. If we want to know what it means to be fully alive, we can look to Jesus. If we desire deeper intimacy so we can live the truth of the first commandment, we can look to Jesus.

Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost . Whitaker House. Kindle Edition

I highly recommend this book for all who follow the path lest trod.


[1] Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost . Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.

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