When I think of shame, I think of that feeling that overtakes me when I am deeply embarrassed by something I’ve done and I hope no one finds out about it.
Well, if in my head I carry around my top ten list of shaming moments, today I’m going to share one with you. I’m sharing this because I don’t ever want to give you the impression that I am a divorce goody-two shoes, that I don’t have my messes going on in the background of my life. I’m not and I so totally do.
People’s experiences of divorce run the gamut from amicable to embarrassingly messy. On a scale from one to ten, mine probably fell around the seven mark, even as Christians. Though things have definitely and gratefully settled and quieted down lately, it has been one of the saddest and most humiliating and degrading stretches of my life.
About two years ago, I went to the police station and asked for a Notice of Trespass. I did this so that I could feel emotionally safe. It stated simply that the recipient of the Notice could not come on my property until otherwise notified.
I didn’t do this to hurt or to punish. I did this simply for my own peace of mind. And it helped tremendously. Not to go all nazi-feminist on you (again) – because I don’t mean it that way – but I took back power that was rightfully mine. Peace fell over me with this decision and I moved forward.
But here’s where my shame kicks in. Because a few months later, I received a call from a police officer that a Notice of Trespass had been taken out against me. My attorney suggested it was probably retaliation as he knew my character but that the only thing to do about it was to follow it.
I read a copy of the report. This, basically, is what was said about me: “Every time she comes on the property, she is hostile and I don’t want the children to witness that.”
Now, I could justify that sentence left and right. I could tell you that in the months since moving out, we had only been on that property at the same time once, and that I was not hostile at that time and I have someone who could back that up. I could point out that there were only two other times we had interactions, and both of those times I was trying to hand something off…one time was even something that had been requested.
But you know what? None of that really matters. Because, for the most part, sweet ones, you don’t really know me. And this could just be another case of he-said/she-said. And you just have to take my word for it that I didn’t go bat-crap crazy on my accuser. But for all you know, I totally did.
And it doesn’t really matter because that’s what is, to this day, in my file. Though I wasn’t arrested, I have a piece of cyber-paper sitting in my file somewhere that states that someone considers me hostile enough to ask the police to make sure I stay away.
Shame. Shame. And more shame. And if I sit with this too long (as in, ten seconds or so), with that signed statement, with those horrible words, with my deep shame, it can paralyze me.
So here I am, attempting to break the spell just a little bit. As one of my best friends said to me once, “Truth good…secrets bad.” If I say this thing to you outloud…that someone thinks I’m too hostile even though I do not believe I am and that I’ve been reported basically…it loses just a bit of its sting and its power over me. And if I say this thing outloud, then maybe if your divorce has not been pretty, even as a woman who is trying to follow Jesus as I am, just maybe you can breathe a bit easier that even in the ugliest moments, sweet girl, you are not alone, and there’s someone out there who understands.
So take that, satan. Take that, enemy. You don’t win. I know my heart. My friends know my heart. My children know my heart. My family knows my heart. But most importantly, Jesus knows my heart. And he knows that this judgment passed on me is not true. It’s just not true. And even if only Jesus knew that, it would be enough to take away the shame.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. –I Corinthians 4:3-
Thank you for your post(s). One of the reasons I HAVEN’T left is because of this very reason….I am afraid of stupid silly retaliations that will defame my character as a member of my community and as a school teacher. While my counselor said that most people are too involved in their own lives to care too much about the gossip about others, and that anyone who knows me will know it is hogwash, there is still that shame associated with such slanderous (or in your case libelous) statements. So, still here. Thank you for putting out there the harsh realities. Although I believe this says more about him than it does about you. 🙂
Betsy, just remember that God is a God of justice and restoration…regardless of what is said about you.
My therapist and i were talking about shame just thus week. Good words.
Thank you, Danita.
I’ve been following you for a while now. Thankfully, I am not in a difficult marriage situation, but I can’t tell you how encouraged I have been by reading your posts. I have found counsel and guidance that I have been able to apply in difficult non-marriage relationships. Prior to reading anything by you, God called me to “walk with” a friend through a divorce. It has been good to see from your experiences that I did some things right in that—when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Just trying to follow the Lord as best I could and love my friend and be there for her. Your topic today of shame is one that transcends marital standing and your counsel so spot on. It’s an area that the Lord has been at work on in my life and so to your words I say a hearty, “AMEN!”
CC, thank you for your sweet words and for being a faithful reader!
Thank you for this post. I can relate to it for sure. Very helpful!!
What goes into the light becomes light…
Ooo, Christine…that’s good!
Freeing myself of shame was the most liberating thing I have ever done. Giving myself Grace made it easy to give others Grace. Where Grace is not, sin abounds. Love you!
Rachelle, I totally resonate with how the grace I give myself translates to the amount I can give out to others. Thanks for sharing that.
“So take that, satan. Take that, enemy. You don’t win. I know my heart. My friends know my heart. My children know my heart. My family knows my heart. But most importantly, Jesus knows my heart. And he knows that this judgment passed on me is not true. It’s just not true.”
Love this paragraph. Judgement like this is so hard to take and not fight, tooth and nail, against. Great reminder that the best defense is oftentimes, none. That’s where I’m at, those who know my heart and truly love me, don’t question it. They’re the only ones who matter. Thank you Beth, for being part of the reason for this blessed peace tonight. Praying the same for you! 🙂
I am so glad to be able to add just a small portion to the peace you are feeling, sweet friend.
I’m reading post after post you have written and I’m just beside myself. I have just gotten healthy enough to tell my husband that I’m waiting until it’s a good time to divorce and then I’ll divorce him. I told him without anger or bitterness, no resentment. I told him almost like I would have said I’m wearing jeans today. I’m married to the nicest man I’ve ever met. He has no vices that are common among men. He is great with kids, loves people and hands over his paycheck without a word. So what is wrong? Why are we fighting? Why can’t I just be grateful he’s a good man? Why can nothing just be simple? Your Love/Hate about divorce list really resonates. Other men take better care of me than he does aqnd I long for the things on your love list. As I read about of abuse I noticed that most of them fit my husband. The neglect ones fit. Almost all of them fit. And then some of the ugly ones fit me. I’m not like I was before but I’m still at fault and working on me. When exactly is a good time to divorce? ,We have 8 young kids. I’ve been at home for 17 years. Really when will I ever get out of this depletion? Should I? Ive already done inventory about my support system. Even if my friends are supportive it will be weird. No more couple dinners, holidays will be awkward, I imagine I’ll be a 3rd wheel all over the place. I kind of am anyway though, he’s there in body only. Too picky? *sigh*