Chapter 6 of the book, Equipped, tackles a difficult and complicated subject, but one that affects everyone: “Understanding Sexual Shame.” Shame is a fact of life that affects everyone, either when we sin, or when we think we’ve failed at something, or when something makes us feel inadequate. It’s helpful to understand how shame works and that it can be both healthy and unhealthy depending on how we deal with it.
Shame can be healthy and even a great grace when it points out a real problem is our relationship with God or with other people. When we’ve sinned and knowingly damaged these relationships we naturally feel ashamed of it. The shame is pointing out this damage and calling us to do something to begin repairing that relationship by apologizing and making up for it, or, in our relationship with God, by going to confession and doing penance. It is calling us back to love.
However, we’ve all experienced a different kind of shame; the kind that tells us that we are unloved and unlovable, that we are bad or damaged, and that’s there’s no hope for us. This type of shame draws us away from God and other people. It feeds on our fears and anxieties and often leads to self-destructive behaviors. It’s not from God, it’s a lie from the evil one. We must reject the lie that God doesn’t love us and draw closer to Him.
Parents, teach your children about the love of God. God loves us unconditionally and there’s nothing we can do to lose that love. We didn’t do anything to win God’s love, so there’s nothing we can do that would make Him stop loving us. Our good behavior shouldn’t be an attempt to try to win God’s love (He already loves us), but a response to His love (by loving Him in return). The best way you can teach your children this is by living it. Make sure they know that you love them unconditionally, that nothing they do will make you stop loving them, and that they can come to you with any problem and not be condemned.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.