Athlete, Face Shame


Athlete, Face Shame

Jason Cooper

Ephesians 3:17,18 (NIV)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ …

Whether we know it or not, shame is part of our story, because it’s part of the human story. It’s universal and personal. Shame is different from guilt because it’s an attack on who we are, not just culpability for something we did.

Shame is a direct shot at the static identity we have as God’s beloved children. Here are some of shame’s aims:

*To promote self-degrading thoughts and self-contempt
*To prohibit self-acceptance and acceptance from others
*To make us feel defeated, like we blew it
*To promote accusations — these are often just on the feeling level, so they are hard to detect
*To make us feel stuck
*To make us believe we are too different or never understood
*To make us believe things have to be perfect
*To make us regret
*To make us ruminate on painful things
*To make us feel alone and aloof
*To have us constantly compare ourselves to others
*To encourage feelings of emptiness
*To diminish connectedness with others
*To make us believe we are undesirable and unwanted
*To put us in a protective state which keeps us from being honest and vulnerable

Sports provide many opportunities for shame to unleash its power. Imagine …

*You regretted a play you made
*You played badly
*You’re coach yelled at you
*You didn’t impress the person you wanted to
*You are afraid your weaknesses will be exposed
*You got injured
*You are intimidated by your opponent
*You got benched
*You are self-conscious about the color of your skin and features
*You don’t like how your uniform looks on you
*You are on academic probation
*A teammate says something about you behind your back

The emotions, feelings, thoughts, urges, and bodily sensations that come from those instances can foster shame. Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 3:17-18 is to be as experientially familiar with God’s love as we are with shame. Paul hopes we grasp and know God’s multidimensional love, in such a way that it affects our emotions, thoughts, urges and bodily sensations, just like shame does.

Here are some things we can do to proactively thwart shame and grasp God’s love:

*Be vulnerable, become known
*Verbalize the thoughts in your head about yourself to a friend
*Do something you like
*Remember Jesus is not aloof from your shame — He knew many sorrows personally, and He knows yours intimately
*Laugh at yourself, because shame is severe and lightheartedness isn’t
*Bypass your judgment about someone and talk to them instead because that draws you out of yourself
*Look at your thoughts, rather than from them
*Reflect on your talents and gifts, or ask someone to tell you what qualities they see in you
*Name shame to tame it
*Notice what triggers your shame
*Make a gratitude list
*Look at yourself from a distance and have compassion on the person you see
*Seek fellowship, especially when you don’t want to
*Tell yourself your story about yourself with the same facts, but from an alternative vantage point (a more positive one)


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