Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dissolving Shame-- A hard, but Necessary Journey

Here's a really simple, condensed, and simplistic summary of the things needed to deconstruct shame in our lives:

1. Tear down personal and social "Absolutes" and see them simply as the preferences that they really are. No, it's not true that we "must" look attractive to all people-- it's simply a desire (and a ridiculous one that). No, it's not true that we must appear reasonable to all people, it's simply a selfish desire (also, ridiculous). No, it's not true that we must be accepted in every way by everyone. It's just a misinformed desire. If you really think about it, we have a lot of these "wants turn musts", when in fact,the only thing that is a real "must" is our moral obligation. Stop seeking after people's acceptance and approval... it's a want, not a must. And if you care about the truth, you ought to give that desire up anyways!

2. Constantly be accepting things that can't be changed. You have no right to reject your body because of the way it looks. And what standards are you using to judge your body?  Shouldn't you have dropped those standards in the first step? If you're overweight because of a moral problem, perhaps you should judge your addiction to eating food (that's something you can change)-- and maybe you shouldn't even judge that, but the decisions that lead to your addiction that the decisions you continually make to sustain it. Accept everything except immoral acts. Constantly accept your mind, your heart, and your personality-- in fact, fall in love with them. There's no real standards to judge them as deficient, so why not embrace them? Be in awe of your body and heart, as my counseling professor says, but not prideful (because that assumes societal standards which are completely false).

3. Replace the pursuit of the satisfaction of false standards with those of real standards of morality. Honor and serve God; follow his standards. Worship Him! Find satisfaction in him, not your cultural locus of satisfaction!

This is super short, but I have to say, that even though these seem very simple, if you flesh them out they are incredibly effective. In the past few weeks of continually deconstructing my standards and "musts", and then, in the absence of standards which judge me, accepting and being in awe of my mind and heart, I have felt so much condemnation and misery lift from my soul. This is going to sound like a self-help testimony program, but I've begun to actually feel more self-confident and attractive as a person-- but the thing that's so funny is that I don't even care what people think now, nor do I think a person has to look a certain way to be attractive.. I just am who I am, and I accept it.

What I don't accept, however, is sin. I'll write more on this later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Everything on my Mind

Ok, I want to write, again, a short summary of everything I've been learning and experiencing up at this amazing college. It feels as if every time I write in this blog I have a completely changed, evolved, or stronger mindset about things. Right now I would say that my mindset is all three. Even though I'm experiencing some pain right now I really do feel that a very powerful ideology is forming in my mind, and my heart is being strengthened. 

To start: I realized that my developing philosophy about truth seeking based on the potential existence of obligations isn't quite a sound position. As my friends in the Christian Apologetics Alliance pointed out to me, the mere existence of an epistemic problem (there might be obligations that I don't know about) doesn't create (at least immediately!) an ontological solution (therefore, there are obligations). At the time it was very painful to let go of that philosophy since it had become so basic to who I was (and it happened right before a cross country race, so I was theologically destroyed the whole time!!), but I think it's necessary. I still think that there is potential in that argument, but it takes a sophisticated philosopher to understand it, not a nerdy undergrad like me who thinks he knows a lot when he really doesn't :)  So I fell back on plan B, and simply took advantage of my epistemic situation. I am a person who has things called beliefs, inescapably. The nature of my beliefs is to cause my mind to experience my beliefs as if they were the case. I want to have an accurate experience of reality and to respond to reality in the most epistemically correct way possible, and to not seek all "seekable" truth would be literally lying to myself (I'm surprised how intuitively powerful this is, yet when I wake up in the mornings it feels remarkably boring and weighty!) So, relying upon that, I continue my stubborn pursuit of evidentialism! :) 

Next has been something that has been and will be destroying me and reforming me. Shame. I never thought I would be dealing with it or even encountering it, but here I am! I was reading a book called "The Wounded Heart" by Dan Allender for Crisis Counseling class, and I was trying to think through everything he was saying as critically and imaginatively as I possibly could-- it was a chapter about sexual abuse and shame, and what causes it. At the same time, I had been thinking about friendship (because I was trying to understand how friendship fit into my worldview and how friendship could best be used to cause the most goods to occur, and thus had begun to try and define what friendship is as a contract), and suddenly the two subjects which had originally be completely separate in my head starting dancing around together like they were made for each other!! Contracts, friendships, rejection, shame, etc. are all inter-related! It's so amazing! Oh, Lord I'm going through such a painful dry period right now, but how I can't wait to praise you on the other side!!! :)
Anyways, I have been studying this Shame subject and realizing SO MUCH about myself. I never realized it, but I as an individual seem to have struggled with a very large amount of shame all of my life. Whether it was due to the environment or because of my very fragile INFJ personality type, I have become a person who has harshly rejected and condemned every part of myself possible because of my intense desires for acceptance and feeling like I was loved and worth something. Before anyone reading this begins to feel sorry for me, don't-- because I think shame is just as much sin as feeling prideful is-- it's just a lot easier to fall into. Shame is the rejection of one's very soul as illegitimate for failure to meet certain criterion, whether it be failing to meet social standards, failing to have social crowd's approval, or failing to meet one's own preferences (which they have turned into "musts"). Imagine a guy who has placed a large personal value on getting to go with a certain girl to a dance-- if she rejects him he will probably experience shame, because 1) He failed to get a date. (which all men, of course, MUST have or they are inadequate... haha) 2) The girl rejected part of him (however small it was) and he equated that part of him (an invitation to go to the dance) with the whole of his soul, and thus since he felt she had rejected his soul, he rejected his soul and felt shame. Shame is the human illogical by-product of failure. But, look, we humans are so prideful, it makes perfect sense! By the very same premises that we use to feel prideful about ourselves, we feel shame. "If I play trumpet really well, then I am legitimate and of worth." (pride) "I don't play trumpet really well, so I am not legitimate and of worth." (shame) Of course, it's actually a logical fallacy called denying the antecedent, but since when did we humans ever care about logic? In the absence of anything else to make us worth something, we are therefore worthless if we can't play trumpet well.

I'm going to write more on this later, because I haven't even delved into all that I've been discovering. What I have been doing, however, is beginning to heal shame in my life. I've had to deny all of the ridiculous criterion I've used to try to give myself legitimacy and self-worth and simply realize that I have worth and legitimacy simply by being human made in God's image. After that I have begun to go over every part of my heart and body and accept it (since in the absence of rejection, there is acceptance with regards to this subject). I can't even tell you how much condemnation and sickening pain have been lifted from my heart. On top of this, the Love of Christ covers all of my legitimate failures (sin), and thus there is no condemnation for these things either. Hallelujah! This stuff has deeply affected my friendships, past dating relationships, and the way I look at the world. I didn't realize how much I have been destroying myself. 

Hmm, what else. Dating situation? Non-existent, which is happily right where I want it to be. I still have a while before I consider myself "dateable" by any means for several reasons. 1) I want to be more pure. My thoughts are not completely pure. I'm not shooting for absolute impossible whiteboard perfection, but I know I can do better. 2) I need to work through my issues of shame and rejection completely before I get in a relationship. I have struggled with shame-based jealousy in relationships in the past, and now that I've pin-pointed the source, as I've been desperately trying to do for years, I'm going to absolutely and utterly destroy those false beliefs. (as you can tell, they've given me much grief in this life), and 3) I want to be more set in my views. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons I am not dating right now, the other stuff could be worked through, somewhat, while in a relationship. I am absolutely committed to (or at least trying to) follow the truth with absolute submission and respect. What happens if I get married to a girl and then I find that my seeking truth has lead me to something which isn't Christianity? That would be absolutely horrifying-- it would damage my wife's faith, it would put a huge rut in our marriage, it would be very difficult to raise kids, and ugh, I really just don't want that to happen. Do I think that will happen? I really don't think so, but I have to accept that it is possible. Of course, even if I did become a non-Christian for some truth-seeking reason, the teachings of Christianity are so beautiful and pure that I would basically follow them anyways, though my heart would be broken without Christ. I know I have trust issues with God right now which may be cleared up with my working on shame, so maybe this is slightly irrational, but as of now it is an issue. So, I want to be more set in my views and have studied more. This will probably be more cleared up once I've done my studies in Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics next semester.

With that, I think that is all that is on my heart. I've got a plan set out to grow more in faith, knowledge, wisdom, and godliness, and to be healed of self-inflicted wounds. Now its time to implement it! Help, Lord! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011