I recently got some article comments and an e-mail that sent me into a shame spiral. The kind that whispers, “You idiot. What are you doing? Stop it, now. Disable your blog and erase your emails. Stop texting. Keep your thoughts in their twisted mind where they belong,” while you rehash everything you’ve ever written or shared with people in your life.
It’s kind of exhausting. I had to take a coffee break during my spiral. Seriously.
It made me want to never be vulnerable, never make a sperm joke, never try to articulate the darkest crevices of my wrinkly, issue-laden brain. I felt offended, but even worse, insecure.
Then I thought about this one time recently in my kids’ bathroom:
My daughter threw down a new insult during bath time. She whispered to her sister and then was too ashamed to repeat it. Like most put-downs, I think she didn’t know if it was inappropriate or merely silly.
The insult? “You have 100 butts.”
I’m not sure where this came from, but I do see why this is significant to her. In our house, we value quality over quantity. One good butt is better than 100 mediocre ones any day. Butt I digress.
Words can be cutting, but only if you let them. In my daughter’s case, I think she was just testing out her voice. Some people aren’t trying to be ugly, they’re trying to see if what they say has any worth. If they have any worth. I can relate to all of it.
But sometimes, cutting words come from bleeding people. When people are in pain, their words are the first indication. Whether it’s what they say or what they leave unsaid, hurting people often can’t get beyond themselves when interacting with others, stranger or loved one alike.
Even when someone else’s pain hurts us, we can choose to be vulnerable and authentic. We can choose grace over shame. We can care for ourselves and care for other people by trusting that truth and authenticity lead to freedom.
In my recent shame spiral case, I don’t think all the contributors were in pain, but I’m guessing at least one of them was. Regardless, I felt hurt and I wanted to hide. But I won’t let myself stay there.
So in my house, (the new rule is) we’re not allowed to talk about people’s butts, but we are encouraged to stifle shame with vulnerability; use our words as a form of art, sharing information, or therapy; and offer our inner thoughts even when they are misinterpreted or offensive.
In theory, this is working for us, but I think that’s because the kids are focusing on the first part, and I’m focusing on the rest. Check back with me when they start getting insecure about their own butts and we have to fully tackle the shame issue.
In the meantime, I’ll continue divulging too much information, saying awkward things that make sense in my head, and wrestling with issues important to me, here on the old blog. If you have a problem with it, please be nice. If you aren’t, you have 100 butts.