I am so honored to have Dorothy Littell Greco guest blogging today. She is a sister Redbud, an author, a regular contributor to many well-known publications, a talented photographer, and a friend. As I’ve been writing my book, Dorothy has cared for me behind the scenes through encouraging emails and prayers. I know many of you will relate the the vulnerability of her piece today.
Dorothy writes about relationships and following Jesus in a sometimes confusing world and serves as a companion for others on their own faith journeys. Dorothy is currently writing a book on marriage to be published by David C. Cook in 2016. When she’s not writing or making photos of beautiful things, she’s likely to be kayaking with her husband or baking gluten free deserts. You can connect with Dorothy on Twitter @dorothygreco, on FB www.facebook.com/
DorothyGrecoPhotography or Words & Images by Dorothy Greco, or on her website, http://www.dorothygreco.com/.
In my mid-twenties, an extraordinarily handsome and wealthy man pursued me. He picked me up in his Jaguar, took me to expensive restaurants, and always called the next day to express how much he had enjoyed himself. While I appreciated his attention and affirmation, I felt ambivalent because I knew that I was working overtime to be the perfect date. On our fourth evening out, I made a conscious decision to share some of my struggles with fear and to disagreeâ€”ever so gentlyâ€”with his political perspective. He never called again. Was this a coincidence or a reinforcement of what I already knew to be trueâ€”telling the truth is risky?
Consistently telling the truth has been a lifelong struggle for me in part because it often triggers my shame. And like most of us, I donâ€™t like shame. As far back as I can remember, the smallest, most minuscule mistake would send me spiraling down a vortex of self-accusation and self-hatred culminating in a shame attack. I once put my pet goldfish back into his (or her) tank after my mom had changed the waterâ€”never bothering to check the waterâ€™s temperatureâ€”and cooked him. When my mom asked me if I had done this, I lied. I felt both guilty and ashamed for years.
Shame is a heavy burden and most of us go to extreme measure to avoid it. It was during the tumultuous middle school years when I learned that lying provided some traction against the vortexâ€™s greedy pull. I didnâ€™t wake up one morning and decide, â€œI think Iâ€™ll start lying today.â€ I simply noticed that pretending to be fineâ€”even if I wasnâ€™tâ€”prevented others from judging or scolding me for having â€œunacceptableâ€ feelings. This behavior continued into adulthood. Early on in our marriage, if I felt angry about something and my husband asked how I was doing, I would simply attribute my distant behavior to fatigue which was far less controversial than anger. Yes, I did feel guilty for lying, but guilt was far less incapacitating than shame.
This choiceâ€”to dodge shame by lyingâ€”goes all the way back to the garden. Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with each other, with God, and assumedly, with all of creation. Their nakedness symbolized relational transparency and a complete lack of shame. We really donâ€™t know how long the two of them enjoyed one another before the enemy intruded. (For their sake, I hope they had a honeymoon.)
Satan took advantage of their innocence and vulnerability by seducing Eve to doubt Godâ€™s goodness and faithfulness. As she weighed the serpentâ€™s crafty words, I can imagine the angels and demons waging a fierce battle in the heavenly realms. By succumbing to the temptation and eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve altered the direction of all humanity.
At that moment, their eyes were opened and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. Toward evening, they heard the Lord God walking about in the garden so they hid themselves among the trees. (Genesis 3:7)
Adam and Eveâ€™s reaction provides the template for humanity. We fail or sin (or others fail and sin against us), we experience shame, we cover ourselves, and we cover our tracks. Shame mysteriously attaches to our bodies and our sexuality even when the choices we make seemingly have nothing to do with this. By hidingâ€”whether physically or through deceitâ€”we distance ourselves from God and from others. This distance temporarily prevents us from experiencing more shame but simultaneously separates us from the authentic love and grace that we need to break free from shameâ€™s grip.
After following Jesus for about a decade, I began to understand that lying actually contributed to my shame. I knew I needed to stop. I wish I could report that after a single confession, I never lied againâ€”but that would be more deceit. To this day, if I fear that an honest disclosure will result in conflict or rejection, I am sorely tempted to massage the truth. (Swiftly changing the subject works great, by the way.) Itâ€™s taken me years of regularly confessing whenever I lie (even if itâ€™s over something ridiculously insignificant) and continually looking to God to tell me who I am to gain a measure of freedom. Psalm 34 has been a great encouragement to me during this time:
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces. (Psalm 34:4-5 NLT)
The man I eventually married does not drive or own a Jaguar. He ishandsome, but more importantly, he has helped me to learn the direct correlation between truth telling and shame: The truth really does set us free. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.