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The power of shame: I’m saying ‘me too’

If you have never heard of Brene Brown, you’re missing out. Brene Brown is ‘Vulnerability TED’ as she says herself, a worldwide ‘celebrity’ after her famous TED talk on vulnerability I blogged about before. It’s a talk that has had a lot of impact on me as well, which was why I was very motivated to watch a new TED talk from Brene Brown, this time on shame.

Now shame and vulnerability aren’t topics that appeal to a lot of us at first glance. But what Brene Brown has to say is important and it has consequences for how we do youth ministry as well.

In youth ministry, I think we’re at a cross point, a point where we have to choose a new direction, a new way of doing things. But deciding on a new way of doing youth ministry involves risk, innovation, change…and none of these happen without vulnerability and every single one will make you face shame.

The difference between guilt and shame

In this talk, Brene Brown explains the very important difference between guilt and shame: guilt is a focus on behavior, whereas shame is a focus on self. Guilt says I did something bad, but shame says I am bad. Guilt says I’m sorry I made a mistake, shame says I’m sorry I am a mistake.

Shame is the voice in our head that tells us ‘you’re not good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are’. Now I’ve heard these things many, many times over the years, especially when trying new things in youth ministry. They were literally screaming at me the first time I went on stage to deliver a talk. I just never identified or labeled them as shame. Sound familiar?

I’ve battled these voices of shame for years and I still struggle with them. I take comfort in the fact that I completely recognize myself in the ‘gender organization’ of shame Brene Brown shows; I’m facing the same pressures other women are facing. It doesn’t make it easier, but at least I’m not alone.

Fail while daring greatly

There’s a quote that is mentioned in this talk that really spoke to me, it’s the well known ‘man in the arena’ quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

It’s that one sentence that struck me: if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. Turning the course of our youth ministry, of this generation of young people even, requires that we ‘dare greatly’ But to do so, we must face our shame and quiet those voices in our head. The only way to do that is with empathy and vulnerability. If we can manage to reach out to each other, to comfort each other with ‘me too’ as Brene Brown says so spot on, then our shame cannot survive.

I’m saying ‘me too’…how about you?

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