I have a secret. I’ll let you know what nearly every Disney movie is about. Lean in, and I’ll whisper it to you….
You don’t believe me?
What is shame? There is a difference between GUILT and SHAME.
Guilt is, “I behaved badly. But, I can change.”
Shame is, “I am bad. I am less than. I am NOT ENOUGH.”
Shame robs us of the feeling that we can change — it makes us want to separate from people–even those closest to us– and to hide. In the words of Brene Brown, a researcher on shame, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging — something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection…. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.“
How are Disney movies about Shame?
The Lion King: Simba is unrightly shamed into thinking that it was his fault that his father Mufasa died — he is made to feel that he is unworthy of love and belonging — so he runs away into the wilderness.
Frozen: Elsa has “winter powers”, ashamed and scared of these powers her parents and she hides herself away — even from her closest relationships. She hides to the point that her sister Ana sings a heart wrenching song knocking on her door asking her to come out and play, “Do you want to build a snowman?”
Cinderella: Judged as “less than” by her step mother and sisters and subsequently mistreated, this story is all about Cinderella’s step family shaming and blaming her and seeking to separate and isolate her from the outside world.
As you learn to identify shame you will begin to realize that it is EVERYWHERE. One blogger wrote, “Shame is like glitter. It gets on everything and won’t go away.” You will recognize it when it is present and you will recognize where it is absent. You may even recognize it in the very oldest of stories:
Adam and Eve are in the garden of Eden. The Bible says that they were naked and they were not ashamed. But then Satan appears tempting Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. She does so. Then Adam partakes. Hearing God’s voice, Satan points out their nakedness and says, “Quick, hide!” And shame was born — along with it’s attendant consequences — separation from God and from those we love. God appears and asks Adam, “Who told thee thou wast naked?” And Adam, feeling shame, is quick to blame, “The woman whom thou gavest me… she gave me of the fruit, and I did eat.” Shamed people, shame people.
Sticking to the biblical narrative, Christ tells a parable of a prodigal son, who wastes his inheritance in riotous living. Upon hitting “rock bottom” and eating out of the feed for the pigs, he determines to return home, for he reasons, that even his father’s servants live better than he is living now. When the son does come back his first words to his father are, “I am no longer worthy to be called thy son.” And yet, the father rejoices and calls for the fatted calf and a feast. The moral: there is no need for such shame.
When a woman is brought to Christ who has been taken in adultery, and they say, “Moses in the law said such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?” Christ tells the pharisees and accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast a stone at her.” And he waits. The accusers leave and Christ, himself being sinless, says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.” This is the antidote to shame: Love, Compassion, Connection. Shining a light on shame causes it to wither away. Shame grows in secrecy, judgement, and blame.
It cannot grow in the presence of courage, compassion, and connection.
In beautiful irony, it is in the ultimately vulnerable and shame inducing act of carrying His cross to crucifixion and then death by that means, that Christians believe that Jesus Christ was able to reconcile God and man and make atonement for sin and overcome the separating sting of death and shame. The ultimate act of love.
When I hear stories about shame, I am drawn to two things — 1) the magnitude of the pain that shame causes, and 2) the great feeling of loss that failing to address the shame head-on earlier, has lead to.
Brene Brown found that there was only one trait that separated those who struggled with shame and those who were resilient to it, those she called the wholehearted –that these wholehearted people, “believed that they were worthy of love and belonging.” This truth, this key to overcoming shame — that inner critic of dangerous, diabolic, negative self-talk–reminds me of one of the greatest truths that my parents taught me in the form of a lullaby they sang to me, which I now sing to my kids.
“I am a Child of God.
And He has sent me here.
Has given me an earthly home,
with parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him some day.”
What is the answer to the villain of shame in every Disney movie? — Love. You are of worthy of love. You belong. You are enough–it’s no secret.