Thou Shalt Not Shame, Blame or Attack

finger pointingWe are all harmed when we blame, or shame, or attack each other – or even ourselves. I learned this truth at a VISIONS® workshop I attended some eight years ago. And yet dear as I hold this teaching, there are moments when I slide back into a state of forgetting, as I did twice, just in the last week.

The first time occurred when I messed up at work and then got called on it. Immediately I curled up like a badger and withdrew to my badger-cave, the one with the sign over it reading, “You’re hopeless, you’ll never learn, you might as well quit.”

I had made a mistake, yes. But I dragged it around like an ant with a dead ant on its back. I lost two whole days of my life during this cave-retreat and nothing was made better for my having stayed there, chanting over my little witch’s brew of self-contempt.

So that was my first ‘forgetting.’

The second forgetting occurred when I began blaming and shaming someone other than myself the silent and sneaky way: in my mind. 

This happened as I was entering the women’s restroom in a tourist hotel and heard a commotion from within.

“It’s STAINED Mother, have you heard of the concept ‘stained?’“ a young female voice was shouting. “And no, the stain WON’T come out!” she added.

“I actually think it will,” a second female voice said. “It’s only make-up after all and–”

I rounded the corner then and saw a mother by the sinks standing beside her child of about 15, who was wildly scraping at the corner of her gauzy top with a wad of wet paper towel.

“We’ll go up to the room. I have some liquid Tide-” began the mother. But the girl was having none of it.

“It cost friggin’ $200!” she bellowed, only she didn’t say ‘friggin.’’

“Let’s go to the room and see what we can do,” continued her mother in the same quiet voice. “Come on now,” she urged again, and exited the restroom as if to lead the way.

“I! Am! Not! COMING!” bellowed the girl, even more loudly and stayed where she was, so that she and I were the only people in the rest room.

I approached the sink to wash my hands and glanced briefly at her in the mirror. She wouldn’t look at me. I wanted to say “Wait and bring it to a good dry cleaners and you’ll be fine.” 

But there she still stood with that furious scowl on her face and her harsh words echoing in the tiled space, so that then I wanted to say a few more things:

Like, “Hey, calm down!” 

Also, “What’s wrong with you, talking to your mother like that?”

Also, “How much of a sap does a person have to be to spend $200 on a half-yard of fabric that looks like it’s made of Kleenex?”

And then I caught myself. Maybe she couldn’t meet my eye because she was ashamed. I thought about how quickly her mother had left, and with no apparent anger. Maybe the girl has a condition, some turbulence that has beset her since birth, something she has no control over.

In short, who was I to judge?

Now if I could just learn to REMEMBER this valuable teaching I hold so dear, I just know I would do a lot less damage, both to myself and to others.

 

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11 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Shame, Blame or Attack

  1. We all do it. Which is not at all to say we shouldn’t be constantly striving to have compassion, be kind, not judge…sigh. Thanks for writing this. It will help me next time I head into the self-blame cave. Feeling bad about behavior is an energy sink, but I think the reality is that feeling that way is what spurs us on to try to do better next time. This mindful living business is hard.

  2. The old adage of counting to ten before lashing out would have been some wise advice as well here Terry. Once those ugly and sharp words are uttered, you can never-ever take them back, and, if something were to happen to her mother before she (hopefully) got a chance to apologize, imagine the guilt she’d live with for shouting like a shrew at the person who gave her life.

  3. Way too often we see this happen in our churches, Terry. Even though we only spoke for a short time when you were here in Rockland our conversation stayed with me. Praise the Lord that you had courage enouigh to face difficult issues head on while remaining faithul to God and family. Placed this on my church’s site. Excellent insight.

  4. I’m still trying to figure out what the terrible thing you did at work was. I’m guessing it might have had something to do with dangling a participle or perhaps misusing “your and you’re”. But those are just misdemeanors and not worth beating one’s self up. Now semi-colon abuse; that might be cause for burying one’s head under a blanket for a few days; believe me I know….

  5. A little girl in the bleachers behind me kept kicking my seat and sometimes me. I let it go figuring she’d settle down soon, she’s just being a child. BUT, she started yelling how she hated her father and brother. Her mother tried to calm her down, bless that woman. The child started yelling that she hated her mother too, and for her to “STOP TALKING!” At that point I turned around and said as calmly as possible, “Stop (pause) kicking.” I almost said more; not easy to be nonjudgmental. It actually stopped the yelling and the kicking.
    What did you do to get yourself into the ER? Hope it resolves as quick as self chastising. We forgive you, what ever it was. Let it go. We love you.

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