Shame and Religion

The one emotion I experienced most deeply and most frequently while I was devoutly religious? Undoubtedly, it was not the “joy” we are supposed to feel from living a pure life – it was SHAME. Crippling and unending guilt for not doing enough, being enough, striving enough – for my actions, my lack of actions, and even for my thoughts.

I clearly remember sitting through a Sunday School lesson several years ago. My children were young, I was running a large business and supporting my family single-handedly, desperately trying to survive a toxic marriage and (poorly) managing overwhelming depression.

“Name one thing you can do better!” said the Sunday School teacher, a member of the bishopric. “There is not a single person in this room doing ALL they can do.” Hands went up, and the congregation of adults began listing their myriad of shortcomings as the teacher wrote them all on the white board.

The air was sucked from my chest, my breaths coming in shallow gasps. “It’s not true, it’s not true,” was all I could think to myself. “IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO TRY ANY HARDER.”

I went home and sobbed, feeling so overwhelmed and deflated by another Sunday spent hearing my faults, being measured, and yet again, coming up short.

What did I need?

I needed a hug. I needed a friend. I needed someone to look me in the eye and say, “I see you. I see how hard you’re trying. I see you trying to just hold it all together. And it’s enough.”

So, I will tell YOU now – I see you. I know you’re trying. And YOU ARE ENOUGH.

This is not the way to live a joyful life. Shame is a method of control used by toxic systems, and it will absolutely destroy your soul and corrode you from the inside out.

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