Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lessons on shame from Brene Brown

Today I wastched Brene Brown's recent TED talk on shame (a sequel to her previous hit talk on vulnerability.) Brene is always interesting to listen to/read, but listening to this talk made me ponder how some of her ideas can help us create more healthy Christian communities. I've posted some thoughts below the embedded video. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you watch the video or have read her book on the topic.

  • "Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is "I am bad." Guilt is "I did something bad.""
    We often seem to use the ideas of shame and guilt interchangeably. In the talk Brene points out that they are different- shame is about who we are at the core being bad and is related to all sorts of destructive patterns. Guilt on the other hand is about what we did being bad and can be a positive motivator for change.  Given the importance of repentance and change towards right behaviour in Christian discipleship, I think this is a crucial point to keep in mind when we or others mess up. We don't want to fall into destructive shaming, but nether do we want to insulate people from guilt which is uncomfortable but often serves a productive purpose.
  • "Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we're supposed to be. And it's a straight-jacket. For men, shame is not a bunch of competing, conflicting expectations. Shame is one, do not be perceived as what? Weak" I think there is a few things we can take away from it. One is that other people (especially of the opposite gender) may experience shame for different reasons than we do. Because of this, caring for them may be learning and being mindful about their triggers. I think the other take-away from this is to be careful that we aren't overloading people with cultural (rather than biblical) expectations of everything they should do and be as a Christian man or a Christian woman that drive them into destructive shame when the inevitable failure to live up to it happens.
  • If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too."
    I've seen this be true so many times. Admitting your own struggles to some else who is or might be struggling sometimes doesn't seem very significant or much like a ministry, but it can make such a huge difference. Jon Acuff calls it "the gift of going second", meaning that when we take the hard step of being brave enough to share our shame and struggles first, we make it easier for those who go second.  Imagine how much healthier our communities would be if people knew it was safe to bring their sins, shame and struggle out into the light to deal with and get help for because they were so used to seeing others do the same?