Editor’s note: Scott here. I messed up the past two days of devotionals and am resending them with the pictures attached. So sorry!
My mother-in-law had a gift for laughing at her own mistakes. Shame-filled people lack the capacity for such good natured humility. My own mother, a very prim and proper person much of the time, wasn’t raised in an environment that allowed for that freedom. Being able to laugh at our mistakes is such a good way to go, isn’t it? The other options: defensiveness, hiding, blaming, and a general feeling of malaise anytime we prove our human status by making a mistake – all joy draining. One time we were bowling and Nana was in a cute little outfit of white capris. She was fairly fragile by this time and when she went to release her bowling ball, her feet slipped out and down she went. Fortunately, no bones were broken in the process. But she did pee her pants! How did we know? She told us! Evidently she found her own fall so funny that the potty accident was inevitable due to excessive laughing. No bowling alley has ever heard 12 people laughing so hard for so long in the history of bowling. It is a cherished family memory.
As my own mother’s Alzheimer’s progressed it wasn’t all bad news. The part of her brain that held judgment and shame got lost. Gradually I noticed that she liked people she had previously had no use for. Tattoos, a personal choice she found completely offensive when her brain did NOT resemble a piece of swiss cheese suddenly morphed into “pretty pictures” – and she wanted one. (And I really wanted to get her one, but I figured it would hurt too much.) Judgment slipped away. She also lost her hatred for having her picture taken. Without judgment of the superficial trappings and goings on of others, it seemed she also lost the bad habit of judging herself. During one of our last quality time visits last year, she asked me to take a selfie with her. (I know – how does she know THAT but cannot remember how to turn off a faucet?) Here is a picture of my mom and me as she expresses her feelings via selfie about her chronic back pain.
One weird way to fight back the insidious joy thief of shame is to practice new behaviors. Here are a couple of suggestions to try: do something you ordinarily feel weird about because you are afraid it will make you look bad (so long as it isn’t illegal, immoral or fattening – oh wait. In a world not riddled with body shaming, go ahead. It can involve fattening!) When you make a mistake, tell several people about it. And if someone points out a mistake, thank them!! Just try one of these suggestions and see if you survive!
Tomorrow, I’m going to use an example of how choosing to live in a “no shame zone” can actually reduce arguments, hurt feelings, and increase joy simultaneously!!!