Last week I was talking with my dear friend, Debbie, and she asked me to write about unconditional love and good shame messages. Debbie wanted to hear more about how these two principles are not in conflict, although we often walk them out as if they are. It’s a delicate balance for sure, and most people I know are so mired in histories of co-dependency and “I-have-to-be-nice,” to the extent that daring to give a good shame message scares us to muteness. You will note that I just said, “us.” I am growing in this area myself, learning how unconditional love fits with confronting someone when they are not bringing me joy and I want to be close with them.
It’s easy to have the misconception that unconditional love is always nice, never corrects, and/or only sees the “good” in others, but when we step back and realize we might be believing that we have to be nice and not correct someone, we quickly see the fallacy, because we know that God corrects those He loves, and so do we when it’s our children. I don’t know about you, but my struggle is more with when and what to say to adults that are not bringing me joy. It does seem easier to say, “You are not bringing me joy right now,” with some relationships than others.
I am learning to walk out this delicate balance by helping Dr. Wilder write Facing Narcissism in Ourselves and Others. Ghost writing such a heavy topic is a blessing in disguise, although it doesn’t always feel like a blessing when the Holy Spirit brings to mind places in the book where I need convicting. Every part of the book is seared into my brain from transcribing the CD and now going through it over and over and over, and since Jesus knows I want to practice what I preach, He gives me lots of prompts to consider. “Remember such and such in the book?” I sense in my heart. “Yes, Lord. OK, I need to speak. Show me when and how.” Or, “Yes, Lord. My actions or words were not OK. I need to seek forgiveness.”
As I consider the other blogs I’ve done on these two topics, (Two Windows To Love 8/13/2010; Freedom From How Shame Shapes Us 8/8/2011; Tactics of a Bully 11/5/2011 & 3/8/2012; and Learning Authentic Love 6/23/2012) it seems that what has helped me the most is to understand the reasons for giving a good shame message. The first reason is that I want to be close and connected and the person’s behavior is not bringing me joy (I’m not glad to be together.) The second is if I love someone, I don’t want to leave them in their behavior that keeps me or others from wanting to be with them. We have to keep these reasons in mind in order to work through our fears of another’s reactions to our shame message.
Besides these two reasons, it is also extremely helpful if we learn how shame works, how to get back to being glad to be together from not being glad to be together, and how God designed us and our brains concerning shame. I have spoken briefly to this in the other blogs. *
All of us who grew up around a bully and/or with “you-better-be-nice” know the fear of confrontation. Coming to grips with whichever way we err—not loving unconditionally much at all and giving toxic shame messages, or “loving” too much to risk a confrontation—is a journey. Finding the delicate balance requires a close connection with God. How we respond to those who need unconditional love and a good shame message has to be Spirit-led.
Unconditional love and good shame messages are not in conflict as we may unconsciously believe deep down. It’s a matter of realizing we have the fears and then listening to God. The timing, the tone and the words are important. Healing from our fears and growth in God’s strength are essential. Guidance for when and how to speak have to come from God.
Only as God heals and directs us will we be able to grow in finding the delicate balance of when unconditional love means we give a good shame message. This is a place I want to grow and a place I am working on.
SPEAK the TRUTH in LOVE Ephesians 4:15
I’m already working on my next project which is to take the information from Chapters 2-5 of the parenting book and make a different book that will just have the relational aspects of the brain science without the parenting slant. I really want this brain science and how God designed us to relate to get out there. It has so changed my life. Teasers to come.