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I read a story about a man who went to a psychiatrist for the first time. His only fear in going for his first consultation was that he would hear the words “pull yourself together.” The psychiatrist interpreted these words to be the shame that the man anticipated. In fact, subsequent consultations indicated a life-long history of the shame this man encountered by important people in his life.

I recall the first time I mustered up the courage to go to the emergency room because I feared the direction in which my thoughts were going. This was when the stigma attached to mental illness seemed to make people avoid the conversation altogether. I was ready, however, for a conversation and some support, but not for the shame that would meet me by the words that proceeded from the mouth of the security guard. I was young, and his words indicated that he did not equate youth with mental unwellness. Essentially he was saying, “Why are you here?” This was only the beginning of the shameful experience I had with the medical facility, and my response for several years thereafter was to deal with my emotions on my own. But, did I?

Shame is always attacking self in some way. Shame tells us that we are bad, unlovable, worthless, will never be successful at our goals, can never be forgiven, and so forth. Though Peter, a faithful follower of Jesus, denied knowing Jesus three times while He was enduring great suffering for the sake of mankind, the Savior had only love for him. Peter was sincere when he said that he was willing to go to prison or die for Jesus, but he did not know the condition of his heart. Jesus knew that Peter was experiencing shame, and upon His resurrection, He set out to steer Peter’s attention away from his shame and to His love. This is an amazing love! And Jesus had more in store for Peter, giving the erring, unworthy disciple the commission to feed His flock.

Jesus depended on the Father to demonstrate love in the face of cruelty. If Jesus in His humanity was so dependent upon divine power that He said, “I can of Mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30), how much more we must depend on Him for all things, including the removal of the feelings and thoughts that are associated with, or are a result of shame. It is not a work that happens overnight, neither can it take place in obscurity. It is helpful to have others hold us accountable for our actions, to encourage us on the journey of life, so that our stories can reflect the result of humanity cooperating with divinity.

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