I messed up.
I believe a given for all human beings is they will mess up from time to time. It is the nature of being human. We are imperfect. All of us do it. But not all of us respond to “messing up” in the same way. As a survivor I learned that when I messed up it meant I was messed up. Do you here the difference? When I failed, I was a failure. When I screwed up, I was a screw up. When I did something “bad”, I was bad. The message I spoke to myself was there was something wrong with me. It is the message of shame. Shame was powerful in my life. It took a long time for me to wrestle shame to the ground. I wrote this poem during the struggle.
wHAT dOES sHAME fEEL liKE?
What does shame feel like? Shame feels like the moment between slipping on the ice and slamming down on the sidewalk, when time is stretched until the falling is frozen in anguished anticipation powerless to prevent the inevitable crash. Shame feels like running into a solar plexus high branch with an unanticipated whoosh of air leaving the lungs empty and momentarily unable to take in anything but panic. Shame feels like the long expected but ever hoped against realization that the worst about yourself is true. Shame feels like falling through ice into a cold which strips away all defenses leaving one drowning, naked, alone, without protection or anything worthy protecting. Shame feels like a leech growing fat by extracting self-worth, forgiveness, compassion and hope. Shame is born of powerlessness, fear and the longing to be loved. It twists guilt until it is no longer a vehicle for self-correction and relationship repair but rather a tool of personal destruction leaving behind a rubble pile of fear and anguish. Shame is a toxic poison leaching into every cell, every good moment, every relationship, into the groundwater of the soul making it unfit to drink. Shame is the lie of worthlessness proclaiming the impossibility of redemption and shouting "abandon all hope here!" Shame is a lie, a powerful lie, but still a lie. Shame is a parasite whose life-sucking tendrils twist around the spirit until it becomes almost impossible to pull it loose. Almost impossible, but not impossible. Surely the removal is painful and not for the faint of heart. But not impossible. What must it be like to be free?
To counter shame I offer myself mercy
The key for me is to have mercy on myself. To treat myself with grace. Miriam Webster defines mercy as compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power. To counter shame I offer myself mercy. I am human. I will mess up but that does not mean I am messed up. I will fail but am not a failure. I will not let shame define my value and worth as a human being.
How do you combat shame in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you struggle with shame I hope you will remind yourself of all of this. It is possible to be free of shame’s toxic presence. You can do it!
Be well. Stay safe. Take good care.
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