Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book Review: The Soul of Shame - Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

            We walk into the present dragging our past behind us. And the shame we’ve experienced in the past weighs us down and prevents us from enjoying life. Author Curt Thompson is a psychiatrist who peppers his writing with stories of patients wounded by shame.

            According to Thompson, shame often enters our lives through criticism from a parent, a coach or unkind remarks from a peer. As feelings of shame develop, they disrupt the way the mind works. And as we dwell on the shame, patterns of thinking become entrenched. We remember emotional events, and the more we do, the more we become what we remember—shame-filled.

            Through biblical narrative, Thompson explores shame beginning with Adam and Eve, who in original creation were naked and not ashamed. But then sin entered the world and disrupted paradise.

            As humans, we tend to bury painful memories and that exacerbates the problem. Thompson quotes C. S. Lewis as saying: “I sometimes think that shame . . . does as much toward preventing good acts and . . . happiness as any of our vices do.”

            Since hiding is a natural response to shame, Thompson urges vulnerability and openness in sharing with a trusted confidant. We need to be reminded to listen to God’s voice, telling us we are loved and He is pleased with us, rather than a voice from the past that has insulted our humanity. The support of community is important in overcoming shame, reminding you of who you are.

            Thompson looks at how environments might contribute to feelings of shame. For instance, we may hide our feelings in the family of God for fear of being shamed, not feeling good enough. Educational endeavors may lead to feelings of shame if learners are praised only for outcome rather than for effort.

            This is a thoughtful read, published in 2015 by IVP Press I would have liked more about how to combat feelings of shame, but Thompson leaves it in generalities. The book includes discussion questions, so it would be a great study for small groups. He also includes notes and a bibliography.

            I liked the way he wove real-life stories into the chapters. They add color and break up the scholarly tone of the book. A good read.

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