The Shame Cycle

Running sucks. I do not have the attributes that I attribute the being  a runner. My feet always hurt. My fat doesn’t ever quite go away. And I’m tortoise slow.

And yet, I run.

I’ve now completed my 5th Ragnar Relay, which probably means that I am a runner. I’ve run something like 7 half marathons and even bought some Vibraim 5-finger shoes, so whatever is required for runner credentials… I’m probably there. I  will probably run a full marathon at some point in my life, though I have no intention of doing it any time soon.

I tell you this, not to brag, but rather because running is this thing. And Ragnar this weekend was also a thing. And I’m probably too lazy to actually edit this post, but I’m going to try to tell you about how running and my life are going right now, how the one is relevant to the other, and what God has been teaching me.

Sometimes I feel pissed/disappointed at God. It’s not that I ever really think He’s done anything wrong, but I get messed up in the heart when things suck for a bit too long, which is partly my fault and partly a limitation of my humanity.

I’ve been pretty pissed/disappointed at God for a few years because life has been drab and difficult. I’ve also had a chronically  rather low opinion of myself  that I’m beginning to believe is inaccurate and contrary to the gospel (if not out-right sinful).

Probably about ten years ago, I started to lose confidence in my ability to make decisions. During my entire life, I really only believe I’ve made something like three note-worthy bad decisions. I’m not saying that my other decisions were all good, but they were bad in sort of common and universal ways – the sorts of mistakes that are nearly unavoidable because they occur before brain and person have developed the capacity to know better. I think most people probably have a much higher regret count than I have, and yet, I’ve slowly come to think of myself as a poor decision-maker. I didn’t even realize how I was thinking about myself until a week (ish) ago.

Part of the losing confidence came about because I made my first bad decision; part of it floated from the others’ mouths into my head; part is uncontrollable circumstances that I blamed myself for… and on and on and on… all of those things slowly chipping away so that I lost that sense of everything-is-fine and replaced it with he/she/it/they-will-all-come-crashing-down-on-my-head-if-I-choose-wrong. 😦

So then, I started getting pissed at people who expressed negative opinions about what I was doing – and I do stress the word opinions. I’m pretty decent about letting people correct me on faults that the Bible categorizes as sin or foolishness. However, people, I’ve discovered, express negative opinions that are arbitrary ALL THE TIME. And some people express those opinions as if they are biblical, which is really messed up. When that happens, I start thinking I should study my bible and I sometimes feel guilty even if I can’t find anything in the bible to support what that person has said.

Then, I don’t want to hang out with the negative opinion-holder ever again.

Then, I don’t feel confident doing anything. Even with people who only correct me when they are correct.

Example of Negative Nancy comments that mess with my head: “I just don’t get why you choose to go to bed when you could do something social. Given the option between something solitary and task-oriented vs. something that’s about relationships, I always choose the relationships.”

Now, the problem with this comment is that it implies I am selfish and unloving. Both of which are fleshly and sinful. So… if I were more like the Energizer Bunny, it might be sinful for me to go off into my room and spend 9 hours alone. Because I would be choosing something unnecessary over others. So then I start thinking. I can probably do okay with less sleep. 7 hours ought to be enough. But then, some time goes by and I’m trying to grow more in selflessness, so I’m sleeping 4 hours a night and getting even more stupid about my theology of sleep with each brain cell that dies from lack of REM cycle.

All of this is to say that it’s not hard to go from believing I’m a strong decision-maker with tons of common sense to asking Ashly to order my drinks because I can’t choose for myself (No, Ashly – this does not mean you get to stop choosing my drinks for me. Ever.).

So… good choice of 5 ish years ago… I’m not going to listen to anyone who makes weighted comments like that one. I have quite a few blessings of friends in my life who will tell it like it is, especially if I’m unbiblical. They don’t, however, pick at personality things that oughtn’t to be picked at.

Good choice Friday morning… (here’s where the Ragnar stuff comes in)… Running my first leg of the race… 6.something miles… past Angel Stadium… Listening to sermon (Matt Chandler, The Village, more than a year ago)…

Sermon is about self abuse, and the difference between shame and guilt.

Shame is felt when a person does not live up to his/her own standard.

Guilt is when a person does not live up to God’s standard.

Shame can be felt by the innocent and sometimes isn’t felt by the guilty.

Example: I feel shame when I don’t shave my legs. That’s a standard I’ve set for myself, but God probably doesn’t feel disappointed in me when I don’t shave.

Another example: with the running, I really don’t push myself. I’ve been running 10:30 – 11:00 min. miles, when I’m fully capable of getting sub-10:00 min if I try. I just don’t try. And people pass me (in Ragnar lingo, they kill me). Again, even though I’m not guilty on that one, I feel shame.

Another example: I don’t like to listen to music while I run. I wish I did, because it’s normal, but, realistically, I’m happier listening to a sermon or nothing at all. It’s pretty rare that I want music. I like music BEFORE I run… which probably has something to do with softball Katie who could prep for games with loud music, but couldn’t very-well pitch with headphones in. Shame – for not being normal with the music, but no guilt.

So… Life goal: No shame, but appropriate guilt.

I believe it’s a noble pursuit to seek to know the difference between sin and self-inflicted laws. I believe I should stop shaming myself for what I eat, how many books I read, how many words I write, how often I don’t check my phone or email, and how infrequently I shave my legs. Shaming myself doesn’t make me any more likely to live up to my self-inflicted standards anyway, so it’s probably better to stop hating myself. To admit that I am good at things. In fact, God made me that way. He made me to reflect Him, as I am His image.

Problem: I just gave myself a new way to shame myself… Bad Katie! Did you just shame yourself yet again? You should be ashamed.

There’s no winning with me. Oh, well. Que sera sera!



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