Talking With vs Talking About

I am currently reading the book “The Soul of Shame”, written by Curt Thompson, a psychiatrist. In it, he explores what shame is and what it does to us, both from a scientific and a Christian point of view. While I haven’t finished reading the book, I can say that it makes for a fascinating, and much needed, read. One of the important points Thompson makes is that shame breaks relational connections. How? By causing us to talk about people instead of talking with them. An example of this is Eve and her interaction with the serpent, later identified as Satan. In their conversation, Satan succeeds in planting a seed of doubt in Eve’s heart, doubt about God and about herself. She doubts that God treasures and loves her, as it seems that He is intentionally keeping her away from the one tree that will make her just like Him. Does God think she is not good enough? If so, why? A new found shame fills her heart as she grows convinced that He who made her doesn’t think that she is good enough.

This isn’t the only way to read the story, but it sure is a fascinating one. What Eve does next breaks the relationship she had with her Creator and Friend. Instead of running to Him with her questions and doubts, asking Him for clarity and affirmation, she continues to talk about Him with Satan, increasingly flirting with the idea that his accusations may very well be true. Ultimately, she eats the fruit God tried so hard to protect her from, and the rest is history. What would have happened if, instead of talking about God, Eve would have gone to talk with God, trusting that He would receive her, even with a troubled or doubtful heart? How would that have changed the course of history?

But what about you and me? I know I fall into Eve’s mistake many times. Instead of being honest about my feelings of shame, I blame them on someone else. Instead of making myself vulnerable and sharing my feelings, doubts and frustrations, I vilify and separate myself from he or she who makes me feel not good enough. And more often than not, as time passes and all is said and done, I realize that instead of getting rid of shame, I got rid of a meaningful relationship. Just like Eve, walking away from He who loved her.

The takeaway is simple. “Come” says God in Isaiah 1, “let us reason together…”. God is one who invites to come to Him and talk, even if shame is the topic of conversation. Why? Because His desire to continue connected to us is greater than his desire to potentially avoid an uncomfortable conversation. So it should be with you and with me. Let’s take the bull (shame) by the horns, for the sake of keeping our love alive. It’s worth it. Ask Eve!

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