Shame vs. Justification

Contributed by Andrew Love

This past year, a particular concept came to light that High Noon started tackling due to the fact that it is largely at the core of how we feel about sexuality.

This is only after speaking with hundreds of people via emails, texts, messenger, being approached by people after giving our talks—and essentially any other modality of communication you could possibly imagine.

The topic of Sex comes with so many concepts. People have preconceptions that are often held so closely that it can cause them to react involuntarily in very surprising ways. The reactions can range from shock and horror, to bewilderment, to relief and everything in between.

While speaking in front of audiences, there are occasions that people squirm so much in their seats that we swear the friction of their butts in their seats will start a fire.

That doesn’t seem to be the case when we speak publicly about things like…pottery, or bird watching.

Religion hasn’t helped humanity to cope with the complexities of sexuality either. In fact, in many cases, religion has only compounded the discord by handling sexuality in such an uncomfortable manner. Hellfire and brimstone have often been the only words associated with religious leaders’ talks on the issue. This is why shame often eclipses religious people’s worldview when it comes to sexuality.

You see, if your leaders aren’t talking about it, then it must either be unworthy of discussion or even…dare I say, evil! And if sex is such a frightening force of terror, then parents mustn’t even mention the idea to their children, lest they introduce the very notion of this fundamentally human desire to their poor, unassuming kiddos.

The overwhelming conclusion that any decently observant bystander would arrive at is that sex within the religious worldview is a shameful act. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t move when it comes around (like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park) or you will be consumed by it. Hide. Hide from it. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!! Don’t stop! Don’t stop and smell the roses, or you will surely die!

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. A LITTLE.

So what are the alternatives? Let’s say you grow up in a very religious home, what are your options for an alternative education regarding sexuality? Google? Your friends at school that don’t know what they are talking about? Your older sibling who doesn’t know what they are talking about? Dr. Ruth…

That’s where justification comes in.

In a society that is becoming increasingly intolerant to anything that reminds people of rules or authority, you will only ever find relativism and justification. It makes sense. NOBODY wants to feel bad, so why not say that nothing is bad? Anyone can have sex with anything?

Is that remotely sustainable? Never, not for a second.

By giving everyone full permission to do anything they want, you are actually losing your own personal rights because people are essentially justified to do whatever they want—even to you. The lines of consent become very blurry (as they are) and children lose their protection.

Justification is a form of thoughtlessness. It’s reactive and emotionally based. It’s just like when little kids feel ‘full’ for dinner, yet longs ferociously for dessert. Or like how in these politically charged days we are living through, people can justify hating people who believe the opposite of what they do in the name of taking a moral high ground.

Both shame and justification avoid actually dealing with the matter at hand. They are socially acceptable forms of emotional avoidance. Though we can come by our emotions honestly, shame and justifications are never sufficient dwelling places for our thoughts or feelings. They won’t take us to where we’d like to end up.

Shame leads you to a place of isolation, which only compounds the problem you are facing.
Justification is like adding gas to a fire and will push you down a road where eventually the sidewalk will end and there will only be a cliff awaiting you.

So what are we supposed to do?
How can we possibly cope with all of the pressures of life if we’re not supposed to simply feel terrible about ourselves or become nihilists?

High Noon wants to replace both shame and justification with a culture that is built upon:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Grace
  • Accountability

These are such powerful internal tools for creating a culture which celebrates healthy sexuality.

Honesty.
Being honest about what you think, feel, and do is the best way to maintain a high level of freedom. If you own up to your life, then nobody can take that away from you.

Integrity.
If you have a habit of living up to the virtues you espouse to believe in, you will become an unstoppable force. When you say you will do something, it will get done. People can trust in someone with integrity. They can believe in them. And that is in short supply these days.

Grace.
Have you ever been down on your luck and secretly hope that those you are closest to would take the opportunity to kick you whilst you are most vulnerable? No? Neither would anyone ever. We all need a helping hand when we don’t have the strength to get up. That’s the power of grace. And though we all crave for raw, unfiltered grace, we aren’t always willing to offer it freely. Watch what happens when you do.

Accountability.
Telling people who you really want to be is very tough. To let people know the desires of your heart is a risky move. The person you tell could mock you or shut you down. But when we keep our dreams inside, we are actually letting them die. We are suffocating our hopes when we trap them in our minds. Tell someone you trust and ask them to keep you accountable to becoming that person. Accountability is simply having access to a mirror that reminds you of what you aspire to and where you stand in respect to your goals, hopes, and dreams.

 

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Responses

  1. what a lovely and pertinent essay, thank you! while I can’t be sure ALL shame ad ALL justification is to be avoided (I like a little healthy shame, almost gives my spirit the vitality elements generated by honesty, and even a little justification “what spotlessness can be expected of people growing up in hell BUT please expect brave and tireless over-comers”), I AM sure that whenever shame OR justification DERAIL our recovery and growth, we MUST kick them out and replace them with, as you say, honesty/integrity/grace/accountability; whatever we do, learn to walk tall and let light shine through us like a crystal