I said “hell” today at preschool pick up. Church preschool. Granted, it was part of a story I was telling (responding with, “hell no”), but by the expressions on the teachers’ faces, I might as well have used the F-word. And since I had known these teachers for all of ten minutes, this was a really great first impression. (Sarcasm noted.)
Then I spent about fifteen minutes shaming myself…
“Why did you say that, Lauren?!”
“Can you not rein it in for literally two minutes to pick up your son from school?!”
“Now they are going to judge you and judge your son. There goes his snack privileges. And he will probably never get to be line-leader. ” (Meanwhile, he’s been walking for all of three weeks. There are no line-leaders in toddler school. Shame can be so rational.)
“You could have said heck. Still would have gotten the point across.”
“Gosh, can’t you just get your act together?!”
“Of all places. CHURCH. PRESCHOOL.”
“They probably think you don’t know Jesus.”
“Hashtag Role Model.”
Let me be perfectly honest. I don’t really think “hell” is a bad word and, frankly, it’s quite mild compared to other words I’ve used. What threw me for a loop was how quickly I went in to shame. The battlefield of my mind was almost immediate. Somehow I had to combat shame and take control of these thoughts. And somehow I had to show myself some grace.
Shame is a beast. It is much different from guilt. Shame tends to go for the jugular. It’s an attack on our identity whose message states, “There is something wrong with me. I AM bad.” Guilt speaks more to the behavior, but not who I am as a person, “What I DID was wrong.”
Shame is also counterintuitive to growth. We often think that if we shame ourselves, we will then be motivated to grow or change. However, it’s really the opposite. Shame is like swimming in a lake of tar— there’s not a lot of movement. You’re stuck. Had I stayed in shame over this incident, I would have ended up in a place of performance, trying to prove my value/worth. A performance thought could be, “Maybe I’ll volunteer to be a class parent, so they’ll see I’m really a good person.” Who wants to get on that merry-go-round? Shame-Performance-Strive-Prove-Repeat. No, thank you. Or maybe more appropriately, hell no.
No, shame is not a motivator. We don’t grow from shame. We grow from grace and love and acceptance. Mind you, this is not always flowers and cake pops. Grace, love and acceptance can be firm and real and honest. They can be found in hard conversations or being honest about the reality of a situation or relationship. Yet, the foundation is good. The heart behind it is good.
So how did I show myself grace today? I chose to reframe the shame self-talk with a dose of grace:
“Okay, first day hiccup.”
“I’m still me. Nothing about who I am has changed.”
“I can’t control what someone else thinks of me.”
“I don’t need to prove myself.”
“I don’t need to compare myself to other moms. I choose not to go down that path.”
“Jesus said hell. Probably in a different context, but we’re going to be great friends.”
What about you? Can you relate to the shame talk? Have you ever tried to reframe your self-talk to be more grace-filled? I would encourage you to give it a try this week! And Moms, if you cussed on the first day of preschool, welcome! There is grace for you here, my friends.