“I’m fine…well, not really, but don’t ask.”
If you have lived on this planet for more than a decade, you have seen someone close to you struggle with a secret issue. As a therapist, I frequently work with men and teenage guys on these struggles. They may include alcohol and drug use, lying, pornography and masturbation, gambling, and affairs. At times, even depression, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy are kept secret from loved ones. On the surface, it may seem like these problems have little to do with each other. However, with some exploring, one thing is common to them all: shame.
Listening to Guilt
Shame is a pervasive reorganization of your self-definition. Meaning, you begin to believe that you are shameful, less than, or hopeless. Shame often grows out of guilty feelings. Guilt’s purpose, though, is to point out that there is a problem in your life (or operating from a Christian worldview, sin) or a disruption in your relationships that must be acknowledged and dealt with in order to move on. Guilt provides an early opportunity to come out of hiding to deal with the sin that has become a block between you and others, but most importantly, between you and God. So often we remain silent, allowing the guilt to metastasize and change our self-identity.
The Corrosive Nature of Shame
We typically feel shame as a result of something we have done or something which was done to us. The result is much the same: we feel are than, worthless, or damaged. When shame deepens, we think that no one could accept us if they know the parts of us that fill us with guilt. How can you tell someone that you drink yourself to sleep at night, sleep with a married woman, or are filing for bankruptcy again? Do you ask your Sunday school to pray for you to get honest with your wife, or your youth group to pray that you stop looking at porn on your iPhone? The answer for most of us is probably not, but we don’t know how to begin the conversation. As a result, we don’t, and then the problem gets worse, and our relationships suffer. Shame is corrosive to our souls. Eventually we isolate or become bitter and angry. Our behavior says “stay away” when our souls long to be known and unburdened.
Addiction is more complicated than just unburdening and dealing with shame head-on. Healing cannot grow if you are still in hiding. We must be known in safe relationships to grow and become free of shame.
Does this sound like you or a guy in your life? Do you only suspect that something is going on deeper behind your loved one’s persistent “I’m fine”? Reach out to someone, start the journey of unburdening, and begin to reject the lie that you are less valuable than others.
Do you have issues that are burdening you? Counseling can help. Contact us to make an appointment.