the critics and the shamers
I think when you blog about hard things you are supposed to do it in a way that is easy to digest, like “5 Ways to Overcome Shame” so that people can take notes or something, but I have never been good at “supposed to” and am terrified at the idea that people would take notes from me because I cannot even tie my shoes the way everyone else does, so what do I know.
All I really have the authority to do on here is tell people what I think. My life is not your life, my experience is not universal, my mistakes are my best teachers, and, well, I am not omniscient. Thank goodness. That is a good thing, because I am already very tired in life, so I cannot imagine the exhaustion of knowing everything.
Hear me say this clearly: I have made mistakes. I continue to make them. I, in fact, will always make mistakes. People watch my life and make a lot of assumptions that lead them to incorrect conclusions about my character. This is interesting to me, because I am not a celebrity in a tabloid. I am actually available for questions. It has come to my attention recently that a lot of these observations and conclusions are based on my rape and how the rape affected me.
Alright. Everyone pull up a chair.
I am a victim of sexual assault. A victim. The word “victim” means “a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action” – this is from the dictionary itself. I realize that people think they are being helpful when they suggest ways in which they think I should heal, or things they think I should or should not do while I heal, or let me know that I should have healed by now. Thank you for sharing all of those things. Now, this is not at all a piece about sexual assault victim advocacy. That one is still cooking in my head. This is more to help me cope with the humans and voices in my life since said sexual assault.
Do you know what is helpful? All of the therapy I go to. And the medication I am prescribed. And the truth I am told by the people in my life whose voices carry weight in my life.
Do you know what is not helpful? All of the judgment and shame. I am not really sure why people think those things are helpful, because they are actually poisonous and when I listen to them, I curl up in a little ball in my bed and unfortunately stay there until I talk to my therapist or someone else who tells me things that are true about me and what God says about me. Something really neat that people do is point out mistakes I have made and broadcast them back to me in an attempt to, I think, shame me into better behavior. Or something. I am not sure. They do this with the claim that I am not a good enough Christian, or even not a Christian at all. It is interesting to me that they can know this, but do not know that I have a very intricate and connected relationship with Jesus where I take my mistakes to him and ask Him for forgiveness because I am moved to do so, because His grace abounds, because He covers my sins. So, when these people reach back in to the abyss and pull my old sin back out, and wave it in front of my face, they are suggesting that the forgiveness of God is not true or real in my life. This is perhaps the most presumptuous thing I have ever heard in my life.
Here's the long and short of it: I have physical intimacy issues because my ability to control my physical intimacy was compromised, and someone took advantage of that, and I have spent the last eight months or so exploring various ways to cope with that intimacy breach. Some of them have not helped. Some of them have. This has not been a linear exploration. People have had a lot of opinions about it. Luckily for them, I am a transparent person and would love to engage them in a dialogue. They get uncomfortable when I offer this up.
Do you know how I protect myself? By realizing that not every voice deserves to have the same weight in my life. This is wonderful news for me, because it means that the voices that tell me that I am loved and a daughter of God and I am worthy of grace and forgiveness even though I have made mistakes can have more weight than the voices that have and do call me a slut, or tell me that the rape was my fault, or that my dress was too enticing and that I was asking for it (note: that was one was from the actual rapist himself, in all his glory). I sort of cannot even handle it when people shame rape victims. Do you know what you do when you tell us that it was our fault? It makes us get truth and lies all mixed up in our head, and that is why I did not tell anyone what happened for five or six months -- because I was convinced that I was dirty and had a scarlet letter. And the mistakes I made were because of that mentality. I wasn't even giving anyone the opportunity to tell me that I was okay and still good and still worthy of love and respect -- I was already talking myself into an awful alternative and accepting cheap thrills because I thought that's all I was good for. Do you see why we have to talk about rape now, you guys? Do you see why we have to get comfortable talking about trauma? Do you see why we need to be safe spaces for people?
We have to realize that what we say can be so damaging. We have to be good stewards of our words. When we are not, it is important to apologize if we are able. Words are so life-giving but they can also be so toxic, and that is a lot of pressure, I know. And yet.
On the other hand, we have to realize that not every voice that we hear deserves weight on our identity, on how we think and feel about ourselves. Can we stop with the putting shame on each other stuff? Has that ever been a helpful thing for the person in question? If you can cite an example I would listen with fascination. Or if you're going to speak to me and also hand me shame, can you at least give me a cookie, too? I like the chocolate chip ones from Methodical.
But honestly, we probably cannot stop, because we are messy, broken people who make mistakes. When someone attacks you, remember that they are attacking their perception of you -- not actual you. Lots of people will have lots of things to say, but they only know what they can see -- they cannot see your thoughts and feelings, they cannot always see if you have been through trauma, and they certainly do not seem to be able to see how their words will make you feel. Some of them think they are God. It is cute, really. Well, none of us are God. So, you can say "thank you for sharing" and stay the course. God is far too wise to use shame in His shaping of you, so you can take the shame those people try to hand you and release it to the wind. the wind can take it. You are gucci.