Sunday, April 26, 2015


From Beth:

I recently heard William Paul Young, author of The Shack, say something that so perfectly describes what I have seen in some of our children. He said,
Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between a value statement and an observation.

As soon as I heard this I thought, "That's it. That perfectly describes countless parenting moments in our home." 

I would make a statement, completely reasonable and normal, the kind parents all over the world make as part of the loving raising of a child. And my child would respond as if I had just asked them to do something horrible, something no parent would ever require. 

There have been times over the years when it felt like my parenting seemed to always and only affirm their shame. 
No matter what I said, or what tone of voice I used, the push back from my parenting efforts was massive. To the point where many times I would almost despair of it all. 

I would offer, "Let me help you with your vocabulary so you can be ready for you test tomorrow."

What I hear myself saying is, "I am here to help you. I know you can do this. You are not alone. I am proud of you and want to be a part of your life!"

What they heard was a harsh value statement, "You are such a loser. You are not smart and you can't do anything right. You are a disappointment to me."

I would observe, "That outfit is probably not appropriate for this event. Maybe you could wear that nice outfit we bought last month."

What they heard was, "You are ugly. You aren't meeting my standards. I don't accept you the way you are." 

It is the voice of shame.

If you think this sounds extreme then that is truly wonderful, because that probably means that shame is not a big part of your child's foundations. For many adopted children however, the facts of their early years have been masquerading in their minds and emotions as truth. Shame takes the facts of abandonment, neglect, abuse, relinquishment, orphanage life, and anything else it can wrap it's tentacles around, and disguises it my precious child's mind as a deep truth about his/her identity. 

Shame speaks words like rejected, never enough, alone, unwanted, failure, weak, too much to handle, unsuccessful....

And when those horrifying words are spoken a child may shut down completely, totally disengaging.
No eye contact. No verbal replies. 

Or there might be yelling. "I hate you. You are a horrible mother. I wish I were never adopted. My life would be much better without you. Get off my back and just leave me alone. You make me want to die....." 

We have heard all of these words, and more, in our home. 

It is the voice of shame. 

Or, you might see your child put even more pressure on him/herself to please, to do everything just right. But the anxiety and anger levels build over time and at some point you will experience the inevitable blow up from so much self-imposed pressure.

I am overwhelmed with the reality that my Father God has allowed me to be a part of His healing work in my children through adoption. For it is in the context of family that our children have heard, over and over, that they are no longer orphans, but true and beloved sons and daughters. 

It is so easy to allow shame to bait me into an unloving, shame-based response. And so unhelpful! 
So I decided a long time ago to respond with the Truth--to counteract the shame with the antidotes of love, belonging, identity, understanding. 
Over and over again, in so many varying forms of my maternal love I have the opportunity to speak truth into the lie. 

  • Speak it in season and out of season. 
  • Speak it when your child embraces their identity as the beloved, and speak it when your child denies the truth of it, either through their words or through their actions. 
  • Speak it when they are in front of you listening, and speak it when they have gone to bed and only you and God can hear.
  • Speak it when your heart is full of the truth of it, and speak it when the words seem like a lie even to you.

Speak it--
over and over and over and over, 
day after day after day after day,

year after year after year after year.

I am seeing the fruit of this in our family. That inner voice of shame is being drowned out by truth, unmasked by love without conditions and limits. And where shame is still successful in its ugly masquerade, I am even more determined than ever to speak truth, for this is what adoption is all about, right? It is about radical rooted love, both for me and for my child. 
It unmasks us all and reveals the beautiful truth that we are His beloved ones. 

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