writing

What I'm most afraid of writing

 

A few weeks ago I retracted an entire article I had written about race. While it was authentic, raw, it felt naive and simplistic. I decided the world didn't need those words right now. And I needed more experience. I do not regret my decision. As writers, there are words best kept to ourselves. But let's be honest, any and all words have the potential to be misread.

I just took a tough email conversation to the phone because I feared we were both totally misreading each other. We were and it was a different set of words when we could hear tone, sorrow, and humor. Sometimes our words are too one-dimensional. They need texture that a screen or page cannot offer.

I have been putting many words to paper this last year and have started sharing with certain people. To be frank, I'm a little sick of my own verbage as I find myself quoting entire thoughts, sentences, and paragraphs in normal conversation. Out of my mouth, they do not just hang in mid-air. They are received and reacted to and gain substance in the process. Suddenly, misreading or disagreeing become live experience. We are dialoguing and it is adding texture to my writing.

It is also freaking me out.

The more women I talk to about their parenting, their relationship with their kid, or their own story, the more I fear writing words that are naive and simplistic. Does the world need these words? My list of what to cover, who to address, and caveats worth mentioning grows by the day. Who will I offend? Who will assume I can't relate? Who will feel this message is not for her?

Who do I think I am?

Aw, Emily Freeman. I return to her book, A Million Little Ways, frequently. Her words remind me:

When you finally show up, you will hear this question whisper dark words into your soul. When you are on the verge of discovery, on the edge of risk, when you're ready to take the next step toward influence- this question will come out of nowhere, asking who do you think you are?

Pay attention to what you're doing when you hear it. I bet you one million dollars you aren't watching TV. We have an enemy who wouldn't bother to threaten you if you weren't dangerous. So the question who do you think you are? only comes on the cusp of risk.

When have I heard those "foul six words" creep into my soul? When I'm with women. Talking about our journeys, wrestling with parenting. Wondering about obstacles to intentionality. Considering alternative ideas. All conversations aimed at fully offering themselves and calling their children to do the same. I've heard those words when I've been on the edge of risk.

My greatest fear should not be writing words that might offend. My greatest fear should be not writing words.

What about you? When do you hear those words most? Be encouraged today that you are worth threatening. You are dangerous!

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Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul with Aubrey Sampson

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Shame is a new word to me. Oh, I've been experiencing it for years, but have only named it in the last few months. We've been getting acquainted as I realize what a constant companion it has been for much of my life. Brene Brown has made this word famous, of course, but I love what Aubrey Sampson, fellow Redbud, does with it in Overcomer. Her book comes out today and I couldn't be more happy to have her share with us here. Stay tuned for my personal shame journey on Friday. ****************************************

Too many women have allowed shame to condemn and confine them for far too long. If you’re ready to break free, regardless of the shame experience that is holding you back, Aubrey Sampson--a pastor’s wife and an advocate for at risk women—invites you, like her, to be an overcomer. Sampson courageously shares her own history with shame, ranging from sexual assault to everyday imperfections and laughable mistakes. But it doesn’t end there.

Sampson identifies seven major lies of shame, such as, “I cannot experience freedom from shame,” “My past is unsalvageable,” and “Shame is experienced only in traumatic situations.”

Written with a strong biblical theology and a humorous authenticity, Overcomer equips readers with the spiritual understanding to overcome shame.

Through her personal experiences and true-life stories shared by women of all ages, Sampson deals directly with the shame that comes from the humbling moments in life, as well as from the tragic—sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, abandonment, and more. Then she empowers women to transform their life’s story into ministry, creating ripple effects of hope and healing that can change the world.

Written for any woman whose self-worth has been stolen, Overcomer gives you the courage to kick down the walls of shame and embrace freedom and a future in Christ.

Aubrey Shame

AUBREY, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT SHAME?

Shame encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is to think back on a moment when you experienced it. You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort, or self-consciousness (I was a middle schooler with pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so yeah, I know self-consciousness!). Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, such as when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured, or abused. Another difficulty with shame is that so many of us live under the weight of it without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

Add to all of that, the pressure in our Christian culture to operate above reproach all the time, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. We may even believe that if we aren’t shaming ourselves, we’re in danger of becoming prideful. So we beat ourselves up as the “better,” more Christlike option. It’s a vicious cycle. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough.

Throughout Overcomer, I share my own history of “not-enoughness,” along with stories from others who’ve overcome shame in their lives— ranging from situations of abuse to struggles with body image and eating, to everyday laughable imperfections.

The ultimate message of Overcomer is this: in spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to Jesus, our shame is transformed into sparkling, beaming joy (Psalm 34:5). There may be moments in life when we feel condemned, but when our identity is centered in Christ, we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, church planter, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin and three young sons. Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul, www.aubreysampson.com, is available TODAY on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books and will be available wherever books are sold.

Beauty Out of Chaos: The Art of Writing (Part 5)

Welcome to Part 5 of "Beauty Out of Chaos and the Sacredness of Art" where we have been exploring the imprint of God in us which leads to the creation of beauty out of nothing, out of chaos. I am reading Beauty Will Save the World by Brian Zahnd and happened upon this last night, "The artist doesn't give us a journalistic photograph of an event, but an artistic interpretation of an event. The great masters of sacred art were both artists and theologians; through their work they have given us an artistic interpretation that reveals the inherent, but hidden, beauty of the cross." As I read Shauna's words today, I am struck by the writer's artistic interpretation of pain and sorrow or hope and joy as a means of revealing the beauty of the cross. As a writer reflects on life, are they not naming the work of Christ and the presence of God? Shauna Gauthier is a kindred soul, seeking goodness and glory in others, focused intently on story, and mothering women, including, but not limited to 4 biological daughters. I appreciate the struggle of embracing the art and calling of writing in her life and her thoughts on process she shares today. May I ask you, in what ways were you called to create?

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I never really thought of myself as a writer, let alone an artist. Perhaps it's because when I was young, my writing was most familiar with the genre of survival. In the midst of the heartache of a broken home furnished primarily with the chaos of shame and abuse, I often retreated to the safety and sacredness of journaling. I had discovered a way to get the heaviness of those formative experiences onto those precious pages and pages, easing the burden of all I was being asked to carry through life.

I remember briefly entertaining the idea of embracing writing as a future career when I was a sophomore in high school, but that fleeting thought dissipated when my English teacher delivered the difficult blow of a B- on a creative writing piece I had worked so hard to craft. My fragile soul was no match for Ms. Meeker’s judgment, but I never entirely gave up the practice of writing. It was the faithful friend I carried with me everywhere I went in the years of adventure that followed.

Instead of becoming a writer, my vocational journey lead me down the path of youth ministry, on to international non-profit work and ultimately toward becoming a psychotherapist. I guess I never really ventured very far from the deep waters of chaos. It was the landscape I was most familiar with, but it was also where I was able to grow the capacity to see beauty underneath the brokenness, to glimpse the goodness distorted by sin, and to illuminate meaning in the midst of the complexities of life. Writing was the way in which I catalogued all that I came to see and understand along the way.

When I was in graduate school pursuing a degree in counseling psychology, I somehow found the courage to share my writing with an audience for the first time. It began as a joint blog endeavor meant to create a space to ponder lessons learned through the journey of graduate school, but it soon became far more than an online journal. My writing process began to shift. I was no longer simply journaling in the privacy of my own home where I could dump thoughts, fears, desires, and frustrations without the context of relationship. I wrestled with this new frame. It required a level of vulnerability and authenticity I wasn’t even yet able to offer directly in relationships, but it was in this process that I discovered how the writing and sharing of our stories can lead to healing.

Today I have come to understand that I do psychotherapy, but I am a writer. Early on, writing was a coping strategy and my saving grace, but in this stage of life it has matured and is serving an even greater purpose. I take some of the difficult and painful snap shots from this grand narrative we all live and move and exist within, and I run that gritty and messy material through the uniqueness of my own mind, sifting and sorting and searching for the beauty. It is always there. It is waiting to be discovered, extracted and molded into a gift of words for anyone willing to behold it. It is always there...in each and every one of our stories.

It still feels vulnerable and risky to share stories of trauma and healing, brokenness and beauty, death and life. But ultimately it is how I embody and embrace the Imago Dei.

The artist in each of us is uniquely designed to create in some way. For most, I presume our capacity to create was born out of some form of chaos. I’ll say it again, we are all meant to create.

bio-photo-300x288 Shauna Gauthier, MA is a writer currently blogging regularly at 3therapistswalkintoablog.com. She also works as a psychotherapist in her private practice located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She most delights, however, in her role as mom to her four daughters and partner to her husband of 15 years.