Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shame Culture vs. Mormon Culture

Is SHAME CULTURE part of your congregational experience at church?

Are you so caught up in the details of what's right and wrong (like the Sadducees and Pharisees of old), that you don't truly know who your Savior is?

Are you so busy trying to save the world that you've forgotten the beautiful message that JESUS HAS ALREADY DONE THAT?

At church we learn that we're supposed to be good, or rather, we're good because we're there, right?


In going to church every Sunday, have you gained book smarts about the word, but haven't come to KNOW it in the way God intended you to?  You may have a temple recommend, but are you still one of the 5 foolish virgins?

These are all questions I have been asking myself since my recent awakening (click here).


Some individuals are more sensitive to shame than others.  Some have an alert internal sensor on what shaming is and that it's not right even from a young age.  They're the kind of people who will NOT be manipulated into doing what's right - they need to know for themselves, and they need to choose for themselves.  I used to be a bit judgemental of this kind of a path, but I am now firmly of the opinion that this is okay and even essential for many - without questioning, how will they ever KNOW who God is?  Or without questioning how will they come to know who they are?  I believe we should not shame others for questioning.

I used to think it was best to understand God's word and learn from the mistakes of others and to just be believing - without questioning.  Maybe that can be argued to be best when it comes to topics like doing drugs, but it's not the best method when you apply it to everything.  And it's important to remember that all is not lost if someone you love has tried something like drugs.

Through trauma parenting, I'm learning that manipulating someone into doing what's right, or shaming them into doing what's right is not only the wrong method to choose, it DOESN'T EVEN WORK, no matter how much you wish it could.  I am also learning that even if you have a non-traumatized child who responds with "positive" results from shaming & manipulation, it still doesn't make that method right.

Honestly, I've never thought in depth about what shame can mean until the effects of past trauma on someone I love showed me.

It's real.


When our child purposely seeks negative attention to trigger cycles of shame, we have to drop it - drop the shame.  We must show NO EXTREMES IN EMOTION.  We're getting better at it with practice, but at first it felt so hard because it's different than parenting in any other scenario I've ever faced in the last (almost) 10 years.  I've been thrust into a journey of finding out what shame is (both blatant and subtle), because if I don't come to know what it is and what it isn't, MY FAMILY WILL NOT SURVIVE. 


Can shame culture be found in politics?  Absolutely!

Do Conservatives shame other people?  Yes, many do.

Do Liberals shame others?  I have seen it.

Is shame culture present in the family you grew up in, or the one you're currently raising?  Maybe.

Can shame culture be found in the Mormon church?  Yes - I can only speak for where I've lived, but at times it can be found in those congregations.  Over the years I have been a part of it or contributed to it, but I am currently working on my awareness so that I do not do that to myself or others anymore.

Can shame culture be found in other churches?  Yes - I have a friend named Tiffany who does so much for the "Without Walls" church.  One of her recent posts said, "People in the church have no problem gossiping but we can't get them to witness... 🔥👊🏼 Isaiah Saldivar bringing truth!! BOOM! #wearewithoutwalls"

This post showed me that people in their congregations are experiencing the same kind of obstacles that hold us all back from God.  Gossip is part of shame culture.  Are they preaching shame culture?  No, they're speaking against gossiping, which is a good thing to do, because gossiping is harmful, and they're lamenting the way it can get in the way of knowing God & being able to witness of Him.

So here's the nitty gritty:

Is Mormon Culture also Shame Culture?

What I have come to understand is that there are many Mormons who live in a fog of shaming themselves (that was me) and shaming others (sometimes it happens without realizing it).  Those very same imperfect people go to church (because church is not for perfect people) and sometimes they give their spin on the doctrine with their opinions when they raise their hands as they're trying to make sense of the Word.  It is possible for the people who live in shame culture to do damage to others, and sometimes that damage is a factor that pushes people away from going to church.

But when it all boils down...for those who are wondering if Mormon Culture in and of itself is Shame Culture, the answer is NO.


Mormon Culture is...

...lifting up your neighbor through visiting teaching and home teaching - checking in on each other and serving, shopping at Down East Basics because they have cap sleeve tanks, celebrating Pioneer Heritage whether or not you have pioneer ancestors, being obsessed with Family History, magnifying a calling (even if you have never done it before), knowing way too many Disney quotes, building temples to give our best to God, prosylyting about the Book of Mormon, engaging in public speaking from a young age by sharing talks or testimonies, inviting others to learn of God, participating in or attending church plays/pageants/or community events, centering your life around God and Family, "mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort."

Some silly parts of Mormon Culture is demonstrated in movies like "The Singles Ward", and it is also found in the drink menu at Sodalicious - I never knew you could sum it all up on one menu until I went there and all of my teenage and college age years came flooding back in an instant - "Boy Scout" "Amen" "Eternal Flame" "Civil Marriage" "NCMO" - I have never laughed so hard!

And this post would not be complete if I didn't mention that Mormon Culture is also about Jell-o - there is such an uncanny connection at least in the United States to Mormons and Jell-o.  My brother's catchy, original, and melodious tune is even now running through my head from Sunday dinners...he sings the words "Jell-o Salad" with an operatic musical theater voice, and it cracks me up every time.  I have to join in with my own refrain.  Irresistible and cheesy, but it brings us together.  Families and Jell-o can be forever. ;)


I'm 32 and I've been going to church every Sunday that entire time.

For a large part of that time I've also been trying to sub-consciously earn my salvation.  I didn't think I was. I thought I knew my Savior.  I thought I understood Him.  But the way I understood Him was actually blocking who He really was.

I thought that living a righteous life in and of itself was what would help me to know God.  Maybe in a way all of my good choices led me to Him, or maybe it prepared me to to know Him, but what I know now about God is that He loves me when I'm broken.

And what I know now about repentance is that it's not a one item at a time kind of thing.  It's really important, I have found to LET IT ALL OUT and lay it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.  A friend encouraged me to pray out loud and say every negative feeling I was experiencing, then focus on what I wanted to repair, and then focus on gratitude.  I was told not to stop talking until it was all out - no matter how big or how small, no matter how recent or old the things were that I needed to get out.  You know what happened?

I was praying out loud for 2 hours.


I had SO MUCH I was holding on to.  I had so much pain. I had been living a "perfectly" righteous life (when you're a Mormon, that looks a lot like attending church every Sunday, reading your scriptures regularly, and praying always, paying your tithing, being temple worthy, and serving in your callings), but I had never TRULY put it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.

I always would focus on trying to repent of one thing at a time.  I'd work on it between Sacrament meetings and I would think little by little I was getting closer to God.  Maybe I was closer to God because of it, but I was still trying to be "good enough".

So as I kept striving for the ideal I became harder and harder on myself.

I was so hard on myself, because I was NEVER enough. Nothing I had was good enough, either, because even though I knew I had the types of things that are supposed to make you happy, I was waking up unhappy every single day.

EVERY DAY as soon as I opened my eyes, my first thought was, "I'm not happy."

There were a few factors going on at once to cause this: 1) I developed a thyroid condition after my 3rd child and have been working with my doctor to maintain chemical balance ever since - I have thyroid medication and a regimen of daily vitamins to help with this.  2) I have been under some extreme stress.  3) I was viewing the world with a lens that was contributing to my depression.

When the ideal of righteous living becomes your whole purpose, you're actually never going to be good enough.  You're going to be depressed.  I know, because I was.

But what was amazing about experiencing and accepting my own shame is that while it felt excruciatingly painful, it also felt so freeing at the end.

I can honestly say praying this way is different than what I was doing before, and I can say that I am learning what it means to have a personal relationship with my Savior.  I have not seen His face, but I know without a doubt in my mind that His grace is eternal, and when I am able to accept His grace, it allows me to walk in His Spirit, and that Spirit is the kind that motivates me to WANT to make right choices...not make right choices because that's what you're supposed to do to know God.  The way I am viewing EVERYTHING is changing because His Spirit is changing me, and it feels so much better this's a way I had never known before.  And I know I have so much more to learn about walking in the meekness of His Spirit and having peace in Him.

One thing I have been learning about getting past shame is that to get rid of it, you have to move past what is right and wrong, and somewhere in the middle find what is.  Right and wrong still exists, and making right choices is still important, but when you're able to come to terms with "WHAT IS", you're able to accept it.  And when you can accept it; that's when you're able to let go of the shame.  I was beginning to see this in some small ways and was able to see some small progress with the kids, but until I was able to understand what it really meant on my very own personal level, I could not actually help my children through it.

It is important for each of us to experience on our own the Savior's love, and grace, and that He suffered FOR OUR SHAME, and that's why HE IS ABLE TO TAKE IT AWAY.

If you seek Him, you will find Him.

When you find Him, you will KNOW Him. He will bring you peace in a way you've never felt before (even if you've been going to church your whole life or even if you haven't).  And when you know Him, it will change you, and He will heal you.   He wants you to have this hope and peace in Him, whether you feel you deserve it or not, because He loves you, and He wants to turn the pain you've experienced into joy and wholeness.

I know it is possible because He is healing me of my depression, and making me aware of my anxiety.  The Lord is showing me what God's love and grace really is.

You don't have to be perfect to know God.  When you come to know God, in time, He will make you perfect, because you will be perfect in Him.


 OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:  Mental Health and Being Mormon by Dr. Alan Bradford, My Awakening,  Blanket Statements with the Atonement,

OTHER HELPS FOR DEPRESSION (Thanks, Jeff!):  Take an Epsom Salt Bath & send all of your vocalized negative thoughts into the salt and down the drain - if they come back remember that you washed them away, Visualize a color as you move from negativity to gratitude and let it all out - see if your color changes (my happy colors are yellow and blue - like the same color of the sunrise), See a counselor or life coach, Do breathing exercises - in for 4/hold for 7/out for 8,

Music that helps me:  Magnify by We Are Messengers,  Rise by Danny Gokey, Speak Life by TobyMac