Several years ago my wife and I took part in an event that was sponsored by XXXchurch called Resentment. We sat on a panel with a handful of other people who shared their stories of past hurt and pain.
My wife and I were supposed to be the token “porn addiction story” couple which as you can imagine is always very fun 🙂
Anyway, as the panel shared they allowed the opportunity for questions to be asked by the audience. It was at that point a guy who was attending asked me how I had the “bravery” to sit up there in front of hundreds of people and tell my story as a former porn addict.
I explained to him (half joking) that I really didn’t think it was a matter of bravery as much as the fact that I’m from New Jersey, and we typically don’t give a crap about what people think. The crowd laughed and then I continued on saying that I just didn’t allow shame to play a part in my life and therefore telling people my story was not as hard as he imagined.
Yep, that was me… the guy who had completely gotten over his shame.
Or so I thought…
Fast forward to about two years ago when I attended a Phillies baseball game with my daughter.
It was just the two of us on a warm summer’s night and things couldn’t have been better. As we sat there enjoying the game, I received a text from an old friend asking me if I could suggest an app to help him block “the bad stuff” on his phone.
As I texted back and forth trying to explain to this guy that by simply installing an app his problem would not just magically go away, my daughter was peaking over my shoulder much to my surprise.
It was at that moment when she asked me who I was texting and what we were going back and forth about.
I replied, “You know what Daddy does, right?” and then shot her a smirk and sideways glance.
Recognizing the guy I was chatting with was from our old church my daughter innocently asked, “But he’s a Christian… Christians struggle with that stuff too?”
I smiled and answered, “Of course, in fact just as much as anyone else.”
Thinking I was in the clear I turned my attention back to the game when my daughter hit me with, “Have you ever looked at that stuff Dad?”
It was at that moment I thought to myself… S**** just got real.
I was now looking at a very real crossroad moment.
Did I lie and avoid the painful embarrassment of admitting to my daughter that I had struggled with porn for nearly most of my life?
Or did I drink the same juice I had been peddling the last several years that shame was an enemy we all needed to deny and not buy into.
Did I save face and quietly recline in my own shame and hypocrisy avoiding the disappointment of my own daughter?
Did I own my crap and practice what I preached?
I sat there for a second and then said, “Yea, I struggled with that stuff for years myself and that’s why I do what I do now.”
Her eyes immediately filled with tears and at that moment I thought to myself, “What did you just do Carl?”
Recognizing the situation I said, “Hey, I know that’s hard to hear but do you want a Daddy that lies to you, or one that’s going to be honest with you no matter what?”
As it turns out, my daughter wanted an honest dad (thankfully) and despite that being one of the most difficult conversations of my adult life, it also proved to be a moment that drew me and her closer together than ever before.
Yea, shame got REAL that night for me.
There was no denying it.
And the only way I was able to get past it was by recognizing that familiar feeling and “acting as if” it had no hold on me.
Here’s the thing, there will be moments in your life when the feelings of shame will well up inside you. You simply can’t avoid that.
But when it happens you will be faced with a choice.
Do you obey your feelings and hide?
Do you act as if those feelings have no authority in your life and can rightfully be ignored?
Yea, I know… easier said than done.
But choosing to “act as if” is just that, it’s a choice. And the secret to making that choice is understanding and recognizing that the feelings of shame you’re experiencing are a byproduct of your upbringing and a culture that promotes appearance over authenticity.
In other words, they have no real power.
They have no real merit.
They are just how you process the emotions you feel at the moment and…
While emotions and feelings are natural,
While emotions are feelings are unavoidable,
While the stress you are facing is real,
Feelings are just a warning system for your brain.
They do not have to dictate your actions.
So the next time shame gets real you can choose to listen to those lies, or you can reject them.
You can choose to act as if shame never existed in the first place.