Have you ever struggled with shame or self-contempt? In this episode, you'll learn the simple formula for healing shame through vulnerability and connection. You'll also hear a vulnerable, shame-filled part of my story I've never shared publicly.
What if shame is actually not a curse, but a clue to our hearts and what we really need?
Shame is a normal human emotion that shows us how much we care.
Instead of using shame as a weapon, let’s use it as a window into where we need to heal.
Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Today we are talking about shame and self-contempt, because the most powerful emotion fueling attachment to porn is shame, especially when that shame gets infected and turns into self-contempt. Shame is an emotion, it's a normal human emotion. Self-contempt is a commitment to your own punishment. So today you will learn how do shame and self-contempt work, how do you heal? And, if you stay to the end, you will hear a story of shame from my life about something that I have never shared publicly until now. So what is shame? Some people like to make the distinction between guilt and shame. Saying guilt means I did something bad. Shame means I am bad, and in this sense, we want to embrace a sense of guilt where it's appropriate and reject this sense of shame, which is inappropriate, because you are not bad, you are God's beloved Son and you he's well pleased. And yes, we also hurt ourselves and we hurt others, and porn is one of the ways we do that, and so it is appropriate and actually important for us to feel a sense of conviction about our actions and it's also important to be rooted in our identity so that guilt-shame distinction can be helpful. And yet a part of me kind of recoils against that distinction, because sometimes shame gets a really bad rap. Sometimes shame is seen as the worst emotion, like if you feel shame, obviously evil has a hold on you. And that is not necessarily the case. Shame is simply your brain trying to tell you something, and that's the case with any emotion fear, anger, loneliness. Your brain is sending a signal and sharing some really important information with you. Let me give you an example. Imagine you are a boy starting your first day of school and as you look around your classroom after a while you notice huh, looks like I'm not as tall as everyone else, or looks like I'm the only one here with dark skin, or I guess I'm the only boy who doesn't like sports, or maybe I'm the only boy with certain sexual attractions. And in that moment you feel shame. Your face turns red, your shoulders slump, your eyes look down, your body freezes up or shuts down, and that shame is like your brain telling you there is an open wound that needs to be addressed. Or maybe when you were a boy, it was the shame of using pornography or being exposed to pornography and not being able to talk about that with anyone. Well, naturally, when you are little and when you feel like you are on your own in the area of sexuality or any other area where you feel shame, our natural instinct is to cover it up. So naturally, as we grow up, we develop strategies to cover our shame, as it were. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden realizing they're naked, exposed, feeling shame, they cover themselves with fig leaves. We also cover over our shame kind of like a scab on that open cut. And our strategies for dealing with shame might include getting small, staying quiet, hiding, maybe even lying, like if somebody says, hey, are you okay? And you say, oh, yeah, yeah, it's fine, I'm fine, when in reality you're actually feeling rejected or ashamed or humiliated. Another strategy might be to counter the shame by vowing to be successful In school or in sports, or even spiritually. We can use these good things as a way to deal with shame. So even your spiritual life can be based on shame, trying to be the good Christian boy or in any area of life. Often times perfectionism and performance has that root of shame, and these strategies are like scabs covering over those wounds. Another strategy for dealing with shame is not getting small and quiet, but being loud and proud, maybe being loud and proud about your shame. That is something that I actually did Many times as a boy. When others were laughing at me or making fun of me, I would join in with them. I would make fun of myself and on the outside that might look like, oh, he's really confident in securing himself, but actually I am cutting myself. Now I am shaming myself and others might have a similar reaction. But instead of shaming yourself, you decided to shame others, reject others and humiliate others out of that core wound of not wanting to experience shame yourself. So we have all kinds of ways that we deal with shame and you know what those strategies can help us fit in, avoid rejection, prevent further humiliation and survive bullying. Have you ever considered that some of the shame messages you've believed may have actually protected you? Sometimes we use porn to deal with shame. Sometimes we use sexual recovery and purity culture as a way of trying to be good enough, trying to distance ourselves from shame, because we don't want to act out and we know, if we act out, that we're going to feel so much shame. And these surface level strategies can stop the bleeding. But if the wound is never healed, then shame gets infected. It becomes chronic shame, carried shame or, my favorite way to say it, is toxic shame. You can picture a wound opened up by shame turning into the scar tissue of self-contempt. Shame is soft and tender. Self-contempt is tough and hardened. Shame wants to people please. Shame wants to be good enough. Self-contempt has given up on that. Self-contempt wants you to be punished and to believe that you don't deserve good things. You deserve the hurt and the harm and the punishment of pornography. So shame and self-contempt work together to keep us trapped in our sexually self-destructive behaviors. So how do you heal? How do you heal shame and self-contempt? There was a time when I was feeling intense shame and I felt it all throughout my body. So I just started shaking it off, literally Like the Taylor Swift song shake it off, shake it off, off, off. I mean that really helped to physically release the shame of your body. And also it's important to address the relational ruptures that occur. And if you've been carrying shame around for a long time or if you have a secret that you've never fully told anyone. Here is the simple formula Vulnerability plus connection. I know that's super simple, but it really really works. And, by the way, this formula is both really helpful for when you experience a shame storm and you don't want it to get infected, and it's really helpful if you have been carrying a secret for many, many years. You feel a lot of shame and it's already infected and you want to clean it out. So this can prevent our wounds from getting worse and it can address wounds that we already have. Here's the simple formula Vulnerability plus connection. Let's start with the word vulnerability. This word comes from the Latin word volnaus, which means wound. So to be vulnerable is to be woundable. It's to open up that cut. It's to allow someone access to the hurt, to the rejection, to the humiliation that I feel within myself. Vulnerability is not the same thing as transparency. Transparency is important, but it's not the same as vulnerability. Think about it like going to an exhibit at the zoo. Let's say you're going to visit the lions. In between you and the lions is a thick piece of glass. Transparency means that barrier is clear and you can see through it, like you can see the lions very clearly. Vulnerability is taking away the glass. Now you are woundable. Now there is nothing between you and potentially getting hurt. That is vulnerability. So you can be transparent with people and be sharing all these details about your life. But there is still a barrier there Until you share the level of detail that would allow you to possibly be rejected. Now, vulnerability is only the first part of this formula, because when you take away that glass, you really can get hurt. You really can get re-traumatized. So you want to make sure that you're vulnerable with people who will respond to you with acceptance, appreciation, empathy, understanding, curiosity and compassion. I'm summarizing all of that in the word connection. When you can open up your wounds, when you can open up your shame, beliefs and your self-contempt to somebody who responds to you with connection wow, it is so healing, it is so redemptive. As Brené Brown, the shame researcher, says, shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy. Every time you're vulnerable and you receive connection, the healing goes a little deeper and, in this sense, feeling shame can actually be an amazing opportunity to experience real intimacy with other people. When it doesn't get infected through silence and secrecy and isolation, when it leads you into vulnerability and connection with others, shame can be a way of opening up your heart, both to you and to others, and I actually see shame as a gift when I experience it. I'd love to be very clear what I mean. I do not appreciate the experiences that cause me to feel shame. I could do without more rejection and humiliation in my life. What I do appreciate is how feeling that shame is a clue to my heart and it shows me what I really need. I might not have been aware that something hurt me unless I felt shame about it. I might not have been aware that something was really important to me unless I felt shame about it. You know, shame can actually show us how much we care. Have you ever thought of that? Here's a quote from Dr Kelly McGonagall, who says we often interpret the strength of the shame as a sign of how truly bad we are or what's truly wrong with us. Instead, I think we should learn to read that intensity as a metric of how much and how deeply we care. Now, that quote was a little complicated and hard to understand, so let me simplify it for you. When we feel intense shame, we usually think I am such a bad person, what's wrong with me, and it leads into self-contempt. Instead, when you feel that intense shame, think to yourself I've been cut off from something that I really care about and this matters to my heart. I need vulnerability and connection. I know that is kind of a difficult shift to make. Let me give you an example of how I am processing shame in my life right now. Recently, in a husband material small group, I shared a detail I have never told anyone before, specifically sexual fantasies about a member of my family. I have masturbated to this person many times and this is essentially incest born. I opened up to my small group about this and they responded with acceptance, appreciation, validation, understanding and my shame was the doorway to deeper healing. So I can say thank you, shame, for showing me my heart. Thank you, shame, for leading me into vulnerability and connection. Now that you have done your work, I can let you go. That's how you heal shame, and when shame has completed its job of showing you where you've been cut off and reconnecting you relationally, then it becomes so much easier to also let go of self-contempt. When you have received extravagant love from God through other people, it empowers you. When you do this healing work, you might find that your commitment to contempt can shift towards a commitment to kindness, and that is what we are all about here at husband material. Unfortunately, there are some poor recovery ministries out there that use shame as a weapon. For example, every time you masturbate, snapping a rubber band on your wrist. Guys shaming yourself or others is never okay. Instead of using shame as a weapon, let's use it as a window into where we need to heal, because there is nothing quite like sharing a deep, dark secret with another person who responds to you with everything your soul has been longing for. So the next time you feel shame, don't condemn yourself. Instead, approach that vulnerable part of your heart with curiosity and compassion, find a safe place to open up and receive connection and, my friend, you will experience deeper healing and freedom from the power. Always remember you are God's beloved Son and you he is well pleased.