I warned a coworker I would probably cry as we walked into the luncheon for the Literacy Council of Tyler on Wednesday.
She puzzled me when she asked why. I replied that I’m passionate about literacy, which is true.
Former student Cassandra Swanson touched on it with her story at the event. A test she took at the Texas Workforce Commission after she lost her job placed her at a second-grade reading level, even though she graduated high school. She worked hard at the literacy council to correct that, and is now doing well at Tyler Junior College.
“I learned not only to be a strong leader, but also a strong person,” she said.
There it is.
I don’t get choked up because someone learns to pronounce a long word, as beautiful as that is. I get choked up because they don’t have to feel shame anymore. They can finally drop that heavy, debilitating armor, because they see that they never needed it to begin with.
In Brené Brown’s “Listening to Shame” lecture, she talks about how shame can keep someone from doing something great.
“When you put your hand on the door of the arena and say, ‘OK, I’m going to try this,’ shame is the gremlin that says you can’t. Shame drives two big tapes: ‘You’re never good enough’ and ‘Who do you think you are.’”
She describes the difference between guilt and shame: guilt is, “I made a mistake.” Shame is, “I am a mistake.”
If you consider all the issues addressed by all the wonderful nonprofits in our community, you’d be hard-pressed to find an issue that didn’t have shame associated with it. Looking shame in the face is the hardest thing anyone can do, but it’s also the most necessary for reaching dreams.
So how is this related to religion?
Religion has a lot of problems with it. However, one of my favorite features is how it can completely destroy shame. How can shame withstand the knowledge of the love of an all-powerful, perfect God who made you and likes you just how you are?