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EP—21 Radiance or How to Handle Shame

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Welcome to Grace Under Pressure Radio, episode 21, and #4 in our 4 part series on Graciousness. Today’s episode is about radiance and how shame and humility can be used to radiate graciousness to others. It’s all in our perspective. First, let me share a few Appreciation Moments: Thanks for spreading the word!

  • Janice Roberson (@Janice_mentor) for retweeting about my new audiobook, Eleven Pipers Piping.
  • Elizabeth Goddard@bethgoddard for retweeting about the Jadyn Fred Foundation and the ministry they have to children in Montana.
  • Janet Chester Bly @blybooks
  • Janet M. Nast @JanetMNast and TheWritingReader @WritingReader for sharing the last episode of Grace Under Pressure Radio on Graciousness.
  • @ChristyLaShea for sharing about the first book in the Montana Beginnings series, The Debutante Queen.

Radiance: “Those who look to the Lord are radiant. There faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34: 5

The shimmer of a sunstone.

The shimmer of a sunstone. Gems of Wisdom jewelry supports the Sanctuary of Hope orphan homes.

The sunstone’s foreign pieces of hematite reflect light so it appears to glow and shimmer as if the stars were splintered and tossed into the sunset. What should be transparent and colorless is transformed into a twinkling glitter embedded in browns, pinks, and reds when exposed to light. Ah, foreign particles turn into beams of radiance . . .

The note rang out loud and clear from the piano. An F. A clear middle tone F note on the ivories, lovely for an alto. The same note every week started the call for mercy from the Lord. And like a pure angelic theme, the phrases poured out right on key from the liturgist. “In peace, in peace let us pray to the Lord. . . .”

Except they were wrong. The wrong words to the wrong song that started on the same pure clear F. The wrong opening liturgy (the traditional worship pattern of a service) hung in the air as an offering during the first Sunday of Advent.

I’d ruined the beginning of the Christmas season. The song from two weeks ago instead of the correct Kyrie, and none of the other musicians could recover from the blunder to cover the mistake. Actually, um . . . my, um . . . mistake.

“Let’s try that again,” the pianist said.

“Sorry.” I smiled to the congregation and nodded. The congregation giggled and waited expectantly.

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You don’t have to be perfect to serve, you just have to be willing. As many others were after that particular day 🙂

Angie as assisting minister

Angie as assisting minister (and they still let her sing after the Advent snafu of 2010…God works through our weakness.)

The clear F tone rang out and reverberated through the sanctuary. The liturgist’s mind—okay, my mind—whirled. I couldn’t settle on what was before me. Even though I doggone know how to sight-read, even though the liturgy changed almost every week, the only one in my head was the one from two weeks ago.

Look again, I told myself. Okay. Okay, I got it now. Or so I thought. “In peace, in peace let us pray to the Lord. . . .” Right about the second time I sang the words, I absolutely knew the tune, the Kyrie was again, sigh, wrong. I could not get it out of my head.

So Julie, sweet and kind and helpful, Julie, played the tone one more time as we all laughed. Everyone laughed with me because, well, I usually do it so well and so right. Right?

“In peace, in peace let us . . .” we stopped.

The senior pastor leaned over and tapped my book, “It’s only written once, not twice on this one.”

“I know. I can see it, but somehow my head doesn’t believe it.”

Julie spoke confidently into the microphone from behind the piano. “We’ll start again.”

I felt it. I felt the blood in my toes start on fire and move all the way through my legs, into my torso, and zing into my lips. I felt the flood in my cheeks and the warmth in my eyes. I was so embarrassed that even my eyeballs felt the flush. I don’t think I’ve ever been so ashamed in my life. I hadn’t even looked at the email telling me what the opening liturgy would be because I knew them all by heart. Uh-huh. My ego got in the way of my servant’s position. I knew them all. How humbling!

This time she played along with me, so I hit the right notes and couldn’t miss. The warmth didn’t leave my face through the entire opening worship.

I learned something that day.

  • Have you ever embarrassed yourself publicly?
  • Has someone else embarrassed you publicly?
  • How do you handle that kind of situation?

When I was younger, coping with all the embarrassing things my mother did and said was a constant. She’d tell me stories about people at work, the neighbors, and family members, and I never knew what was truth and what was not. As a result, I had difficulty trusting people. She kept letting me down as her stories were revealed as fabrications and I suffered discrimination because of her illness. She was either absolutely crazy or a liar—and no one wanted to believe she was crazy.

My mom’s mental illness made it impossible for her to keep a job. The ultimate behind-the-scenes moment happened in the kitchen on a dark night. She’d been fired again and stood sobbing at the sink. I think that’s what I remember most from my teens, the sound of sobbing. Mom believed the boss had a romantic interest in her. Several conversations happened that hadn’t really happened except in my mom’s mind, and she lost another job. My mother spent most of my high school years in bed fighting depression from losing several jobs and several imaginary lovers, while I worked.

Look at the surface. I was a junior in high school who twirled flags, sang in the choirs, and had earned a spot in the Highlights Jazz Ensemble. On top of that, I had a part in the school musical, wore decent clothes, and lived in a three-bedroom house. Who would think that girl needed help? I even had a cheerleading coach who told me no one in our school was so poor that they had to work to eat. Well, I didn’t think I was poor. I just had to work to eat. (I admit wishing I could go back and tell that coach a thing or two.) That’s the way it was for me. I knew other kids with jobs. It wasn’t abnormal for teens to work. When mom lost her jobs, I went to work. I created balance on that teeter-totter.

Since Heidi was my favorite childhood book, I loved bread and cheese. I romanticized the cheap food, pretending I ate it with Heidi and her grandfather high up in the Swiss Alps. No one knew that I ate cheese and bread at home almost every day. I loved it when a boy asked me out to dinner! I rarely refused. (Sorry, boys, but it’s the truth.)

No one knew how very little we had due to my mother’s condition. I kept my living situation very private; only my high school choir teacher knew my struggle for every dollar because each year’s choir participation required dresses and shoes. Even then, I kept what he knew to the minimum. He knew that my mom was troubled and had very little money. No one knew about the constant sobbing or the long line of lost paychecks or that the men she fancied didn’t fancy her back. It was all too embarrassing.

Sometimes, my end of the teeter-totter banged on the gravel. Sometimes I had to hang on tight for fear I’d go flying off at the top.

  • Do you keep things hidden?
  • Do you do things to balance the opposites?
  • What would happen if someone else knew?

How did it all work out?

Shame results from internalizing embarrassment. Embarrassment is often out of our control and public. Enter negative self-talk, especially if another person shows disapproval of a perceived failure. It’s easy to label and then dismiss that person.

When I failed three times in a row to sing the right liturgy, I embarrassed myself. It hurt! The gem of wisdom I learned was profound. When other people watch an “anointed one” perform, pedestals get built where they don’t belong.

When those pedestals topple, idolized people aren’t superhuman. I’m able to laugh at mistakes on stage or behind the altar because I realize that many people can do what I do. Anyone can choose to serve. Human beings serve God, and those humans are not gods.

Maybe they won’t sing, but it’s much more valid that fallible people serve rather than superman or superwoman. Too big of a gap makes it impossible to fill any job, volunteer or paid. It’s a bit too nerve-wracking if Superman’s been doing the job. God uses my brokenness as much as He uses my talents.

Public imperfection helps me model God using weakness for His glory. Trust me; I get to do a lot of imperfect modeling. That’s one of my not-so-hidden talents. Trained assistant ministers don’t fall dead of a heart attack because they start the service over again and again and again. Those errors became blessings.

Everyone in church noticed that I couldn’t get the song right. God knew what He would do with that fumble. He brought good out of it. Someone (or everyone) got the message loud and clear that Sunday from the perfect public example. And the great I AM uses weak people to create and implement His plan.

I learned something. Often what we see as our shame is not shame at all. Shift the paradigm to see the facts and not the emotion in the situation. It’s a great coping skill.

After the public snafu, the result was interesting:

I glanced around the people sitting in pews. Interesting. They all listened to the First Reading out of the Old Testament. No one was glaring at me. There were no accusatory stares. Not a single soul showed a minuscule trace of looking my way.

I think screwing up like that is a good thing. It shows other people you’re not perfect and that they shouldn’t idolize us. I think it helps the fearful realize they don’t have to be perfect either. Our mistakes work out for the best, especially when it keeps us humble and invites others to try a new possibility.

We accept embarrassment bestowed by others or imagined all on our own. It’s a feeling but not a fact. The facts exist on a completely different level. The way you feel about them is emotion. Emotion and fact have different definitions.

Definitions

  • Fact: the circumstance of an event, motion, occurrence, or state of affairs that is not an interpretation of its significance. Think objective, something anyone can observe.
  • Emotion: a strong feeling about something, a perception or interpretation. Think subjectively; open yourself to individual interpretation.

The question isn’t how do you avoid mistakes? It’s how do you find the good outcome from a mistake and handle the emotion as your reaction to the matter?

Tips

  • Allow a short mourning period. Acknowledge that the situation isn’t what you wanted or expected. Keep that time very short, but allow it.
  • Find the humor in the situation. Some are very serious, but there is often humor lurking in any situation.
  • Talk it out with a trusted friend or counselor. Getting things out in the open really purges the replays.
  • Toss around ideas for positive outcomes. Follow those ideas through to the conclusion. Allow yourself to wonder if those positive possibilities will happen instead of the negative possibilities. This is a great spot to pop out those, “What if?” questions as long as they are only focused on the positive side. It takes mental discipline to knock out the negatives. It helps to verbally agree with a friend or relative to point out those nosedives.

The shimmer of a sunstone is like all the things that go wrong, all the things that embarrass us. Sometimes what appears dull will shimmer with light. Let’s practice looking for the ways things have worked out for the good and are better from what we’ve learned.

Would you like to catch the other episodes on Graciousness?

Episode 18 — Courtesy: How do we get courtesy back?

Episode 19 — The Common Sense of Consideration

Episode 20 — Emotional Filters

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