I’ve enjoyed Autumn so much this year. Where we live, right on the edge of Michigan, in our corner of Indiana, we have lots of trees. I remember when Rob and I moved to this area 20 years ago from Chicago, thinking about how many trees there were everywhere and how beautiful they were. I still think that, and have come to enjoy their beauty even more.
My favorite thing is to go out with my camera and walk, looking for changes in the trees and flowers. Seasons change. Change is beautiful. Change should be treasured and noticed and captured for it’s unique beauty.
We have a lot of change going on in our lives right now. And you know what? It’s not easy. But I am finding it is beautiful–Because we are learning things about ourselves and each other that we never knew before. Stuff that skimmed on the surface before is now plain as day because we have been given the opportunity to slow down a bit and focus on change. We are so grateful for the grace of change and the beauty we are learning in it all.
Embracing the change of seasons in our own lives has been highlighted by the stunning leaves of autumn all around us. Breathing it all in. Slowing down. Watching and Waiting.
If you are ever wondering how many steps you have to miss to tear a calf muscle and sprain your knee and ankle, the answer is: Just one.
It’s been a long and painful month of recovery. But I’ve learned a lot about being humble, letting others help me, and forcing myself to sit still.
Being hurt has forced me to focus on what’s right in front of me. It’s calmed my heart and soul to sit down longer than usual, read longer than usual, engage in conversation without busying myself with a million tasks that are always in the back of my mind.
The longer than I hoped for recovery process has not been fun, but I can say for certain, I’m learning a lot about humility most of all. Repeating the “I just missed one step” story over and over is pretty humbling. Traveling through airports via wheelchair-humbling. I’m more strong willed and independent than I thought. I don’t like to need help. I’m learning that receiving help graciously is almost as important as giving it.
My darling husband, who is so giving and gracious, looked at me when I refused his help the other day and said, “Are you sure this isn’t about your pride? Because you really need my help right now.” I hit him with my crutch and conceded. That was painful. He was right.
The days have been interesting since I took that misstep, for sure.
There have been days I have felt like this:
and other days I feel like this:
I’m trying to find a healthy balance between both.
Taking one misstep can cause more damage than I ever thought possible. This isn’t some metaphoric lesson, but you can take it that way if you need to. Just be careful walking down your stairs at 6am before you’ve had coffee.
The need for self reflection and self evaluation is a constant, necessary hard work if we want to be the best we can be at our game, whether at business, or at home. I am constantly evaluating myself. Figuring out where I am, where I need to be, what’s been getting me “stuck” where I am and keeping me from being the very best version of myself for myself and for others in my life. Offering myself the best me is a gift to myself. Offering the very best me to others in my life is a gift to them. I am always learning. I never stop learning. One of the ways I keep learning is by reading books that motivate me and inspire me to change. For the past two years I have read a hundred or more books each year. Each book I read adds to the depth of my knowledge and inspires me to be a better person. Every now and then one stands out in a significant way. Dr. Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me, (But It Isn’t) was an extremely significant read for me this year.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability is one of the most watched talks on TED.com, with over 8.5 million views. Since then she has appeared on Today, Katie and Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.
Brown speaks about the topic of Shame and its power over our lives in this easy to read, very relatable book. Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection-the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”
Shame keeps us from being the best at our game. We all struggle with it. I am guessing that in both our personal and professional lives, the people we interact with on a day to day basis need the gift real “us” to show up. We are all different for a reason. My story–It’s what I bring to the table. My story can be a gateway into someone else’s story, bringing empathy to someone else, causing that person to “Up” their game while I do the same. Brene Brown says, “Empathy is the strongest weapon against shame.” When we share our stories, when we can sit with others and just listen with hearts of empathy, shame is dissipated and friendship can happen.
I spoke with Judge Scott Schofield, who has a unique perspective on the issue of shame as he deals with people who have made poor choices because of their unresolved personal issues of shame, causing them to act out in negative ways. He has the words “Be kind to those you meet today, everyone is fighting some quiet battle” into his bench, as a reminder that each individual he sees is indeed fighting some quiet battle inside that probably lead them to the space in front of him.
After sixteen years of being a judge, Scofield has seen patterns emerge in the men and women who stand before him. Many offenders have been victims of abuse of some sort, and instead of dealing with the shame and hurt of that abuse, they turn to drug and alcohol addiction as a method to deal with their personal shame stories. He then sees victims of abuse abusing others because of their shame and addiction.The cycle repeats endlessly unless someone has the courage to face their shame and deal with it in appropriate ways.
Judge Schofield says, “When we make a bad choice, we should be ashamed. Shame can be a motivator. Guilt can prod us to change. I try not to judge people, I try to judge their actions. I name their bad conduct, I try to call out their potential for good. I punish them appropriately for what they’ve done, but call out the best in them.”
Schofield says, “Very often my unexpected empathic response to drug offenders bring tears.” When I asked him how he could be empathetic with people who have obviously done really evil things, he responded “I very rarely see an outright evil person. I see bad behavior, but I also see the good in everyone standing in front of me, and try to get them to see it too.” Even with his empathetic response to criminal offenders, he says,“I am not lenient with them. Even when I send someone to prison for a long time, I tell them, it’s important to use that time to improve your life. I want you to be all you were created to be.”
None of us wants to end up in front of a judges bench, but what if we could be judges to each other…in the empathetic way Judge Schofield tries to be? What if instead of being harshly critical and judgmental of one another, we tried to see the good in each other and call it out, focusing on the good we see instead of the negative? I think all of us would live at a whole new level of freedom from shame if that could happen.
No matter how close or far away we are from achieving our own personal “winning game”, we could all use a little assistance to get us there. Kathy Guy, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Addictions Counselor helps people achieve their winning game every day. I spoke with her about the topic of shame and it’s role in keeping people from offering the gift of their best selves to themselves and others. She says:
Shame keeps people from their potential wholeness because it handicaps them. Shame limits freedom to be or to become who an individual wants to be. They believe they are bad or shameful. It gives a picture, an image, to the emotion-the faulty self-image of shame.
Shame is trapping, limits freedom, and makes us believe that choices don’t exist. Shame often begins in a system of abuse. The abuse may begin in childhood or adulthood. When a person experiences abuse in childhood, they often feel shameful; it creates an identity, and they believe, “I’m bad, I’m not good enough, It’s all my fault” and other thought distortions. These feelings of shame make them more susceptible to entering abusive relationships in adulthood. Although they had no choice in childhood, they have choices in adulthood, but they aren’t able to recognize them. In this way, they feel trapped forever.
It also makes them more susceptible to other bad choices in adulthood. “If I’m bad, there’s no reason to be good.” Shame becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that leads people to do things that reinforce their shameful beliefs.
Although the prison of shame is miserable, it’s also provides comfort because it’s familiar, and it’s all they’ve ever known. It feels very scary, very dangerous, for people to step out of their shameful beliefs.
Shame is about being hidden, kept in the dark, remaining unknown. Being known is scary because it means being seen, coming into the light. Being revealed feels very dangerous for people. Although they feel bad about themselves, they are afraid that if they reveal themselves, it will be confirmed by others. Rejecting themselves, loathing themselves feels terrible, but the fear of having it validated from others, the pain of that rejection and loathing is feared as pain that they could not withstand.
The liberation from shame comes when they discover, “I have revealed the worst things about myself to another person, and they have not shrunk back in horror.” Liberation, freedom, comes when they reveal the worst things about themselves and discover that they are loved anyway, when they discover, “I’m ok.”
What if we did that for one another–listened to the “worst of the worst”, looked at each other and said, “Hey, you’re ok.” or even better, “Me too.” Find a friend. Be honest. Take a risk and swap a story or two that you normally wouldn’t. Give an empathetic response to a story you normally would not, like Judge Schofield does with criminal offenders. Dare to go first and see what happens.
Your story is what makes you YOU. Your authentic self at the table is a game changer for you and everyone around you. You and your story are a gift to the rest of the world.
Put shame in it’s place and live free. And go get Brene Brown’s book! You’ll be glad you did.
Our family is moving at a high rate of speed, bumping and rumbling alone in a rented RV somewhere around where Wyoming meets Utah. I’ve personally never met Utah, so surprise awaits us all I am sure. We have just spent an absolutely incredible week in Yellowstone and the Great Tetons.
In one day, I’ve watched the landscape around me change from towering jagged snow capped mountains to rolling green hills and now the greens of Wyoming are slowly giving way to the browns and oranges of Utah.
Driving across the West has taught me a few things about myself, my family, and my Creator.
I am a camping Diva. I never used to mind the “roughing it” part of camping. Now I do.
I like to eat way more than I like to cook. Especially in an RV.
Being in the wide open for so long has brought me great joy. The deep satisfying kind of joy that sticks around for awhile.
I am a noticer. I notice all sorts of things other people pass right by. I used to think I was odd for this. But I’m starting to realize it is a gift.
I could sit and stare at the mountains for hours and never get bored.
We collectively are very funny. There have been more tears of laughter than tears of frustration. This has been good for all of us.
We are better “together”. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing is just so much more awesome because we are all doing it together.
We all have extremely strong opinions about everything. We are learning to share those opinions with grace and compassion.
We all love adventures equally and passionately. We are so grateful for this time we have together doing what we all love to do.
Walking wildflower paths on snow capped mountains, watching my kids swim in a mountain lake, wandering outside at midnight in awe of the sky, so bright with stars, they lit up my eyes, then my heart, I have seen a Great Artist behind it all.
The Great Artist knew we might occasionally feel alone, so he put the stars and the mountain tops and the green green grass right where we could see them so we’d know He’s right there. We are never alone.
In the darkest pit of a cave, no lights at all, my hand invisible in front of my face, His voice moved in my heart, whispering, “I’m here.” Swaying in a hammock from the breeze coming over the mountain, The wind saying, “Shhhh….” through the treetops. “Know I am here.”
We are so, so grateful for every second we get together as a family on this sabbatical. We truly are Better Together.
I’ve been having a gradual epiphany of sorts. I know the words ‘gradual’ and ‘epiphany’ are sort of oxy-moron’s but it’s been a thought gathering strength over time. The thought ended with me staring straight into the Beatitudes in the Bible, Matthew 5. The words Jesus said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I realize that each of us is on a different spiritual journey. Some live their faith out loud for all to see. Some live their faith quietly, shyly, but very, very strongly. Those who live their lives the loudest with the most notoriety and attention are not always those living the Beatitudes the loudest.
Celebrate yourself, in your little corner of your world. Celebrate that you are living the way Jesus called you, in your own way, with your own voice. Your voice is strength in His ears. Your joy in serving Jesus in whatever way you know how is His joy.