We begin, like my newest friend, Fiona, loved for exactly who we are.
At two months old, nothing is expected from Fiona except for her to be as she is.

She is not asked to “do others,” “try harder,” or “be better.”

The rest of us, old enough to read, live with shame.


Shame is the vicarious experience of another’s scorn.

That’s what Brene Brown says.
And, she’s right.
Also, note: I have a massive crush on her and once asked Jane to get a haircut like hers.

We might want to learn that definition of shame.
So we can know if we are actually experiencing it.

Shame is the vicarious experience of another’s scorn.

Vicarious means we feel it ourselves.
Which means the other person doesn’t need to do the shaming for our shame to be a thing.

We can have shame, alone.

And, indeed, I bet, we all have had shame alone.

Shame is a matter of believing there is something wrong with us.

Shame is not guilt—we did something wrong.
Shame is we are wrong.

Social shaming (at school, home, work, or other groups) curbs undesired behaviors.
Healthy shame guides toward self-correction, making amends, growth, and—to be a little crude and attempt to infuse some humor—less farting at the dinner table.


Toxic shame.
There is also toxic shame.
That shit is corrosive.

Toxic shame is when you fully believe the shame so much that you believe that there is a legitimate reason you, as opposed to baby Fiona who deserves love, don’t.


Some light for this darkness.
Shame is a bully with puffed-up bravado, hoping you’ll back down.

While it’s hard to get your brain around it, shame doesn’t really have any power if you don’t believe that it does.

Shame only has power when we believe it has power.

Shame feels impossible to stand up to.

Until compassion from others and self-love on the inside crack the code with acceptance.
Because the things that cause shame only seem like they are beyond the redemptive power of love.

They’re not.


An attempt to undo shame.
Attempt number 1.

If we didn’t have desire to feel loved (included, seen, cherished, etc.) we wouldn’t feel shame
Solution: stop seeking love


There is no exact list of what things are and what things aren’t shameful.
Worse, some of the things that are assumed to be on the list aren’t actually shameful.
Like masturbation.
Having hope in dark times.
Asking for help.
(Insert that thing you are thinking about here. And, email me about it if you like.)

Things are only shameful when we believe they are shameful.


I am told by many people that they think “If you really got to know me, you wouldn’t like me.”

I can tell you from statistical probability, that is not true.

Because most everyone I have ever met and gotten to know, I have liked.

And, usually I’ve grown to like them even more the more real, open, honest they are with me.

(Which is part of why I invited you to email me about that thing you are thinking about here.)


My father told me “There is nothing to be ashamed of, unless you are peeing in the street.”

I’ve done it behind a large parked van.
It wasn’t so bad.


Do you think I ought to be embarrassed that my hairline is receding?

Or that I have a scar on my face from a recent surgery?

Yes/No ← pick one


You know that thing I invited you to email me about that that causes you shame?

I bet I’d tell you you needn’t be.


While there is a bible verse used to corroborate the idea that thoughts are shameful, neither is true.

Well, the bible quote is real, but it’s in the context of a litany of verses most definitely not to be taken at face value.
Read the context around Matthew 5:27-28.
Jesus is actually saying that blaming ourselves for our thoughts—“I’m an adulterer because I have thoughts about having carnal relations with someone who turns me on, but I don’t act out on it”—is as ridiculous as saying his next line: “why don’t you gouge out and throw away your right eye which causes you to sin?”

Thoughts aren’t shameful.

I don’t know when exactly it is that thoughts got misfiled as potentially shameful.
They aren’t.


You can judge the quality of any group by how cruelly they shame.


Me: “Emmett I have to commend you and your peer group for just not shaming folk based on gender.

Emmett: “Dad, we don’t get credit for not being assholes.”


An attempt to undo shame.
Attempt number 2.

Treat yourselves with self-kindness. The same compassion and love you would treat another person facing shame.

With love,
Rabbi Brian

——–LIVE! Saturdays at 8am PT
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