Because of the Shame
I've had the song "Because of the Shame" by Against Me! in my head over the weekend. Particularly because it really connects with the last couple blog posts.
The chorus goes;
Because of the shame I associate with vulnerability
I am numbing myself completely.
Can you hear me right now?
Here is the song for your listening pleasure.
The song is not really about the girl who has passed away. This song is about the one speaking/singing who has lost someone who was a significant part of his past. They were so close even that they have each other's names "tattooed into their skin". Yet, the singer is 'numb', not allowing himself to 'feel' the loss, not allowing himself to grieve. Why? According to these lyrics it is because his associates being vulnerable with SHAME. I can't be weak. I can't mourn or grieve. I can't cry. That would be shameful. Instead I have to stay strong... but instead of strength it always ends up in 'numbness'.
So, why the shame? Why are we so embarrassed to show emotion? Embarrassed to show weakness? Embarrassed to be vulnerable?
As always it all comes down to FEAR. Fear is the opposite of LOVE. Fear keeps us in bondage, we enslave ourselves to the torment of what others might think or say or do. We are enslaved by the stoicism of so many fathers who made their sons believe (whether they meant to or not) that real men don't cry or talk about their feelings. We are enslaved by the memory of mothers suffering in silence through abuse of various kinds. You put on a smile and walk out that door. You go from tears to answering the phone with as much strength in your voice as you can muster; an appearance of strength to mask the pain going on inside.
The pain can even be physical. There was a great two part story in the Sun this weekend about a former hockey player, Chris Nilan (Part One - Part Two). He talked about his struggle with addiction, it started with pain medication that was perscribed for his arthritis, a consequence of so many years of playing hard. Perhaps what we are seeing happen with athletes; living with pain and the lengths that we will go to carry on as if we have none.
I've included a video of an acoustic version of "Because of the Shame" at the end of this blog. It provides a visual for what is going on in the words of this song and with so many of us. A room with a ceiling with pieces hanging off, a dilapidated and almost collapsing room. A structure that is falling apart, but it is like the singer doesn't even realize. Things are falling apart, but we'll pretend they are okay... but a collapse is imminent.
Numbness won't last. We are humans and at our best we engage the full spectrum of our emotions. If we do not, if we learn to bury some, if we 'numb' ourselves, those hidden things will find a way to lash out. For our own sake, we must find freedom from the bondage of fear and numbness.
The author of this song is crying out from his internal hiding place, "CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?!" When we hide ourselves away by refusing to be vulnerable we also cut off our ability to truly connect with another person. We can't be truly known by someone if there are parts of ourselves and emotions that we will not share. There will be a silent cry of "CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?!" that will go unheard but provide a constant torment.
Cutting, addiction and many other things that people struggle with daily are often responses to either the attempt to stay numb or the desire to cut through that numbness so that we can feel something. Even pain is better than feeling nothing.
The challenge from the last couple blogs is the same as the challenge that this presents. We have to find a way to confront the pain and sorrow in our life. We can't just try to avoid it and we can't face it alone. We may have to face the shame of vulnerability and take the risk of really connecting with someone else in our life. Letting them in, even to the parts of ourselves that we think are 'ugly' or 'embarrassing'. This result of this risk is called LOVE. When we allow ourselves to be known, even the ugly parts, and what gets reciprocated is not shame but DIGNITY and RESPECT.
I'll end with lyrics from another song that capture this image of love;
Love it will not betray, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the [person] you were made to be.
There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be.
(Mumford and Sons - Sign No More)
Because of the Shame Acoustic.
And you can listen to Mumford's Sigh No More