The Paradox of Healthy Shame
We are created as emotional and spiritual creatures, created to do one thing in life—live fully. The way we are designed is that we can only live fully by doing so in relationship with ourselves, others, and God. This design means that we are dependent creatures, who must accept our need. The neediness feeling in humans is healthy shame. It allows us to recognize, admit, and accept our limitations as a normal function of being human. In other words, we are born needy, remain in need, and that dependency never changes in our entire lives. However, rather than our limitations being some kind of inherent defect within us, healthy shame calls us to the gift of being able to live fully. It pushes us towards the very relationships we need to live fully. It allows us to develop humility, the acceptance of ourselves as being like everyone else. Toxic shame is contempt towards the inherent neediness that we cannot rid ourselves of.
Our awareness of our inborn neediness, and how alike we all are in heart, awakens the following:
I need you and you need me.
I make mistakes and so do you.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have some and you do, too. Let’s share.
I’m not God and you aren’t either. We are human and in need of God.
These four statements are general recognitions of the humility, empathy, and equality that bring full-hearted people together. Simply put, we can be ourselves around other people who can be themselves.
The above four statements allow us to share our abilities and talents because what one person isn’t skilled in, another person will be. They also allow us to accept each other as fallible and gifted. Moreover, these statements allow us to find strength in relationship. In the neediness of healthy shame, we find that we are empowered through relationship to live fully, love deeply, and lead well. In relationship with ourselves, others, and God, we find the goodness that is in a life of struggle and heartache.
We will always be able to do more together with others’ help than we will ever do apart and alone. Healthy shame is a remarkably generative feeling. The paradox of healthy shame is that our limitations can move us together toward remarkable results.