If you have followed my blog for a while you already notice that I can be a bit intense. Sometimes I forget to mention that it is important to balance and temper the intense stuff with messages of grace and love. I am passionate about living wholeheartedly. I love going after the things that get in the way of living honestly, feeling genuinely and sharing courageously. So, yeah, I can be intense at times.
At the same time I am passionate about grace, and courage. I am passionate about love and mercy. Yet, at times I realize that I am not as intentional in mentioning it in my blog posts. Today, I thought I would share intentionally.
I remember the first time I read the words
“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 our resistance to vulnerability.” –Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
My first reaction was: “You are singing the song of my people!” Forty some pages into The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, I felt like I found a trusted friend not to mention someone who could artfully articulate what I had struggled to communicate for years. Of course that was followed with my next thought, “Oh, wait, I think she means me.” I mean, she’s actually talking to me. I had to get to the nitty gritty in my own life. This is hard and uncomfortable stuff. I have a lot of respect for someone who is not only willing to do the hard uncomfortable work of taking the journey through the swampland of the soul, but is willing to talk about it. Brené Brown not only talks about it, she put handles on it for the rest of us.
I started my journey through the swampland of my soul in the late 1980s when I was hurled headlong into finding a way to navigate living with an abusive alcoholic. What I discovered was that while my husband had an addiction, so did I. I was a full blown codependent. It was the hardest thing to face. There was something wrong with me. On the one hand it was the answer I had sought from the time I was a child. I could no longer just blame my husband for the all the problems. A paradoxical argument began in my head. The condemning voice in my head began the revelry with “See I told you you were all screwed up. You really are the problem”
Yes, I was screwed up. I was majorly screwed up. What I found out was that I didn’t have to stay that way. I also discovered that I wasn’t the only one screwed up. Just because I was a perfectionistic, over controlling, codependent didn’t minimize the fact that my husband was a full blown abusive and irresponsible alcoholic. I had a mess to clean up, my mess. The only difference was that I wanted to clean it up. I didn’t want to stay that way. I stopped trying to clean up his mess and focused rather on clearing out the junk pile in my own life.
My journey brought me through recovery groups, support groups, twelve step groups, and therapy, lots and lots of therapy. My therapy included getting on meds for a season to treat clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. I read every book I could get my hands on. I learned how to recapture the inner child and began my frontal attack against shame thanks to the work of the late John Bradshaw.
My swamp was pretty murky. It was chuck full of nearly every form of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and psychological. What I found through my involvement in support and recovery groups was that my story was not better or worse than anyone else’s. It just simply was my story. I took ownership of my story. Over time my scars no longer marked the location of shame. They became the evidence of my great resilience. They became signs of courage and proof of my ability to overcome adversity.
They only became that as I took control over my thought life. When I started my recovery journey you didn’t have to tell me I wasn’t good enough. I already knew I wasn’t. What I didn’t know was that I not only was enough, but I was actually pretty amazing. I am fantastically amazing. Today, I can tell you that I am the only me there is. No one can live my life better than me. Although there were many who thought they could do a better job. They wanted a me that was an alternate version of themselves. I learned I can live the way I want, think the way I want and feel the way I want. And that isn’t just okay, it’s absolutely spectacular. I was created for a divine purpose. A purpose that only I can fulfill.
To get there I have done a lot of really hard work. I have sat in hundreds of support group meetings. I have cried bucket of tears. I have made huge mistakes and landmark victories. I have walked thousands of miles through the labyrinth of my soul. I have hated and loved every pain filled step. It was the worst and the most wonderful work I’ve ever done. It takes tremendous courage to revisit deep wounds and old hurts. Most of us just want to breeze over the painful memories of the past. The problem is that unless we get healed from the past the bacteria festers and erupts later. What we don’t realize is that pain often defines our personality. When we live out of our pain rather than from a place of healing and wholeness we are not living our own authentic life. Unhealed we tend to living out the words that were spoken to us and the actions of others against us rather than the unaltered genuine person residing underneath all that pain. Yikes
There’s a saying, ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’ In the 1990’s, in the midst of my recovery, Joyce Meyer came on the scene. I attended a number of conferences where she spoke. Her empowering and life giving messages later were written in books such, Beauty for Ashes and Battlefield of the Mind. I devoured everything I got my hands on.
That’s what hungry people do. My soul was hungry for good food. I had enough with condemnation, shame and ridicule. I served them their eviction notice by declaring the kindness and goodness of God, His acceptance of me and everlasting love for me. She did in 90’s what Brené Brown is doing today; unmasking shame and giving others tools for overcoming its debilitating effects. Joyce courageously shared her story. She got vulnerable and her vulnerability empowered others in the process. I am indebted to those who put themselves out there with their story. We all benefit when someone uncovers the devious and destructive nature of shame and condemnation.
If you have been following me you know that I have mentioned a new apostolic company emerging and a new dispensation of grace about to be released. The work that Brené Brown and others like her are doing in the area of shame and vulnerability are absolutely vital.
Sometimes, we in the spiritual arena, can be closed off to the concept that we need to do this work in the soul. The problem is that our soul doesn’t go away because we get born again. Getting born again, having Jesus take up residence in us, gives us the opportunity to work in conjunction with Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The soul is the territory in which Satan attempts to thwart the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Dealing with shame becomes paramount when it comes to walking in the Spirit. Shame has a way of knocking us off kilter, and undermining the plan of God for our lives. Shame can be crippling. All of us, no matter how saved, baptized and filled with the Spirit we are, experience the effects of shame. None of us are exempt. However, uncovering how it operates and effects us can be like wielding a sword cutting it off at the root.
One of the tactics I learned for erasing the messages of shame was to stand in front of the mirror and make positive declarations such as: I am loved. I am worthy. I am important. How I feel matters. What I think counts. I have the right to be who I am. I am not what others say about me. I am kind. I am thoughtful. I am generous. I am lovable. I am truthful. I am full of courage. I am brave. Of course, when I started this process every old message left behind by others shouted in disapproval. I did it anyway. I did it more.
Eventually, the old messages began to fade and the new messages of love and acceptance replaced them. I began to learn that when I spoke out a positive declaration and my soul twinged at the thought of it or rejected the message I knew that was an area to do battle. Those twinges became signals that a landmine of shame was buried beneath the surface. The more I twinged the more I would go after that particular area of shame. I lost a few battles. Sometimes the old wounds would surface and I found myself succumbing to the pain. I learned through repetition that if I was going to win the war against that thing I needed to not let it stop me from moving forward. I was determined to not let shame shame me into stopping. It wanted to.
Shame is nothing to be ashamed of. We all deal with shame at times. We don’t like to admit it but we do. I’m not an expert on shame. I only know that where I lack experience and expertise I turn to someone who knows more than I do. I don’t try to fix a leaky faucet. I don’t know how. I can change a light bulb but I can’t rewire a house. When I need some wiring done I call an electrician. Dealing with spiritual things it is wise to turn to those who are experienced in the things of the spirit.
If I want to hear a message on grace, or who I am in Christ, I turn to Graham Cooke, he is an expert. If I need to be reminded that Jesus Christ loves me and gave Himself for me, I turn to Max Lucado.
That’s right. If you have ever read No Wonder They Call Him Savior, Six Hours One Friday, The Angels Were Silent, or He Chose the Nails, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I don’t care how long you’ve been saved, read at least one of these incredible books. It will breathe on a flickering flame and bring it to life once again.
God takes broken flawed vessels, like me and you, and He heals us. He doesn’t leave us in the mess. He picks us up, brushes us off and then goes to work on the junk other people deposited inside. He removes the debris. However, He needs our cooperation to do the job. We have to come out of agreement with the lies that accompany shame.
We are worthy. To say otherwise flies in the face of Jesus coming to die on the cross for mankind. He deemed us all worthy. He deemed me worthy. He deemed you worthy of shedding His blood. If God deems us worthy of the ultimate price heaven could afford, how can we go on believing we are not worthy?
I used to have a lot of other people’s junk inside. That junk informed my soul. They were like prerecorded messages that looped. Every time a situation came up it would trigger one of those recordings. Today, I have a lot less of other people’s junk inside. A lot of the garbage left behind has been taken out.
Getting the crap out of the way was the first step. It has to be accompanied by rewriting our story, rewiring the house, and making a new deposit. We have to re-write the tapes, so to speak. Where someone recorded messages of condemnation and ridicule making accusations that our soul perceived as ‘I don’t belong,’ ‘I’m not good enough,’ or ‘I am bad, wrong, or unlovable’. It is up to us to erase those messages. They can only be erased by recording new information over it.
Unlike a voicemail I can press a button to irretrievably delete, the messages embedded in the soul need to be recorded over. Like re-writing on a re-recordable disc. I know I’m dating myself to use this analogy but I’m not tech savvy enough to come up with another one just yet. It’s more like an old school vinyl recording. Messages, the statements and actions of others toward us are actually engraved, so to speak, in our soul.
When making a vinyl record you start out with a smooth metal disc covered with lacquer. The lacquer covered disc is placed on a machine that cuts sound waves onto the disc. As the sound plays through the machine, it cuts the sound waves into the surface of the disc. At the same time a small vacuum sucks up the lacquer being cut out. The sound thus gets etched into the disc as one continuous spiral groove. Once the lacquer disc is complete to the satisfaction of the engineers it is finished off to create what will be used as a stamper. Note the stamper is the negative image. Pliable putty/the vinyl is placed between two of these stampers (side A & side B) The hot stampers are pressed together to make the positive image, the record.
Here’s what happens to the soul. We start out life without any grooves. What we hear and experience etches waves into our soul. If those soul waves are those that communicate love, tolerance, acceptance, approval, kindness and security those sounds cut waves of patience, love, respect and faith. On the other hand if those soul waves communicate criticism, hostility, fear, ridicule and shame, then what is cut into our soul is condemnation, fighting, apprehension, shyness and guilt. It creates grooves in our soul that play over and over with the same song.
The soul waves cut into our pristine and tender souls from birth onward determine our perspective, first of ourselves and then of the world around us. It’s one thing to have a one or two negative soul waves communicated among mostly positive loving soul waves. When negative soul waves dominate among a handful of positive loving soul waves the negative drowns out the positive ones. Our brains interpret those soul waves and turns them into recordings that we listen to over and over and over again in our minds. So that even if the individual or experience which etched something into our soul is no longer present the soul wave it created still exists.
The good news is that we can replace the negative input with positive. We can record over the messages of condemnation with those of grace and acceptance. We can record over the messages of ridicule and shame with messages of kindness, love and courage. The thing is we can’t expect someone else to the work for us. It’s a work we have to do ourselves. Taking control over our soul is the first step in re-recording the old messages. Many of us have been left with a soul message that says, “I’m not worth it.” We record over that message by doing things that prove otherwise. We speak the opposite. We declare “I am worth it.”
This starts the work of getting rid of what is in the way. When I’m in my own way, I have to take every thought captive. I have to wrestle with my soul and get it in a chock hold of love, grace and acceptance. I chock out shame, condemnation and rejection and replace it with love acceptance and belonging. The truth is I am accepted in the Beloved. I am worth it. The Father loves us so much that He said, “You are worth the life of My Son.” Jesus said, “you are worth the price of My life.” The truth is I am worth the work. If I am worth the work of the cross then I am also worth the work needed to retrieve my soul from the negative soul messages. I am worth recording new soul waves of love, grace, acceptance, courage and faith.
You are worth the effort it will take to do the work. Think about this; where will you be a year from now if you continue to let condemnation and shame dominate your thought life? Where will you be a year from now if you begin to displace some of those messages with soul waves of love, acceptance, courage and grace? You can do this. You have the power to take control of your own soul. That power is resident within you. It is worth it, because you are worth it. If Christ is in you, then the power to overcome is resident within you, the ability to change the soul waves is within you.
If we want to fulfill our divine destiny we have to be our authentic self, not the image etched through the soul waves of others.
If you have heard Jesus and have been taught by Him according to the truth that is in Him, then you know to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self—that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust— to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit. Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy. Ephesians 4:21-24 VOICE
I like how verse 24 is worded in the Message
And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
The character of Christ is fashioned in love, grace, faith, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, patience, approval and acceptance. We all need help in getting there. This doesn’t happen through osmosis. It takes a conscious, purposeful and determined course of action. To re-record negative soul waves is to come into agreement with what Christ says about us. What that really means is I’m doing the work alone. I do my part. Holy Spirit empowers me to do my part. Christ does His part. He does the work of conforming us to His image, an image of love and acceptance uniquely our own.
If I may offer a few suggestions. For about $10 a month you can subscribe to something like Apple Music, where you can listen to a number of grace filled messages from Graham Cooke. Check out Max Lucado online. You can read his blog, listen to his podcast and watch grace filled messages. Check out Brené Brown and her podcast. There are many ways to reinforce grace-filled, positive soul waves into our lives muzzling the effects of shame.
This isn’t an advertisement for Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. However, it is an amazingly powerful tool that helps to get a handle on the stuff that gets in the way. I strongly urge reading it, digesting it and integrating the work. In the recently released 10th anniversary edition she includes tools to integrate the material, in other words, helpful hints for etching new soul waves.
If you haven’t started your trek through the swampland of the soul, there is no time like the present to start. Your soul will thank you for every effort you are willing to put in. May the Lord bless you.
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2
Note: I do not receive any form of compensation from endorsements. Any and all recommendations are based on personal effectiveness through my own experience.
Therefore, I have not received compensation from Brené Brown PhD. LMSW, Graham Cooke, Max Lucado, Joyce Meyer, or the estate of Dr. John Bradshaw, for mentioning them in this post or any other. I do not accept payment for endorsements of any kind.