In our upcoming devotionals on shame, I (Teresa) too want to weigh in with a couple of thoughts before we begin. These are just a couple of observations that I hope will set the tone and challenge us as we think about this topic:
We humans swing like pendulums on topics. We act and react to extremes of thought, word and deed with our own inflammatory reactions. For I don’t know how long children were treated as sources of labor, bartering chips in arranged marriages and taught to “be seen and not heard.” Then the pendulum started its inevitable swinging motion in response to this attitude, and in recent years we’ve begun to treat our children like hothouse flowers in a vain attempt to shield them from anything unpleasant.
Reminiscing recently with our youngest son Michael, we talked about the good old days when he played Upwards Basketball. This is a wonderful program that many churches use to get kids playing basketball within a Christian context. The rules are different from standard basketball leagues, coaches in theory try to teach values over victory, good stuff. My husband enjoyed his experiences as an Upwards coach. But it can get a little weird if you are a third born child who comes from a family where sports is a big deal and although your dad is one of the most decent human Christians in the universe, when he teaches his kids how to play hoops, he teaches them how to defend and score and win. Michael struggled in Upwards. He was most disappointed the week he won “most Christlike” because this patch was white and it broke the pattern of his other patches which had either been “best offense” or “best defense”. How did he win this? He offered a hand up to a kid he had knocked to the ground playing good hard defense in a league that encourages sharing. We suspect his coaches figured that was as close as he’d ever get to “most Christlike” on a basketball court. I love and appreciate Upwards basketball; it is a great way to teach most kids about the game. But let’s be honest, it’s also a bit of a pendulum swing.
When my husband was 21 years old, before Upwards existed, there was a program in our baptist church called RA Basketball. He and his friend Charlie Lunsford, who were both RA leaders (a Wednesday night missions program for boys), began teaching RA’s AND coaching RA basketball. They started with one group of boys in early elementary school and taught them every Wednesday night and through every basketball season UNTIL THEY GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. Pete expected them to learn how to play to win AND develop character. They had seasons where they lost all their games; they had seasons when they were pretty good. But I can tell you that EVERY season these boys were given tons of attention, quality and quantity time, life lessons and fun times too. When one of these young men ended up playing at the college level, Pete was given tickets to attend basketball games when this former RA played in Richmond.
If we can manage NOT to swing like a pendulum, there are many different ways to approach Christlike living. Shame is one of those hot topics that we have swung way out on – demonizing it to the point when now might be a good time to re-visit shame as a concept that isn’t all bad all the time.