Justin Ricklefs


Boatloads of Shame

When you’ve subconsciously spent much of your life projecting an image you want others to see about yourself, it’s haunting when the projector flickers for a minute and someone sees into the real you.

At least it was for me.

It was one of our first, maybe THE first, sessions in our recovery, and I remember vividly trying so hard to paint myself in a good light.

“Well, I’m pretty ambitious. I have a lot of things kinda going on. I mean, my energy is really high and I’m trying to keep all these plates spinning…”

He didn’t buy it. Thank God.

On our way out, I remember being close to fury.

It was tough to take responsibility for this one, but I’ve had to come to grips that part of me can manipulate and show the stuff I want people to see. In order for them to like me.

So when most of the time for most of my life, people liked me, it made me furious when the one guy I knew I desperately needed in my corner didn’t take my bait.

One of the next times I walked in those doors, and it’s a miracle I went back frankly, he made a comment that jarred me.

He’d read some of my application narrative, had observed me interact with Brooke and myself that first session, and I’m sure he just had a good hunch based on other guys like me he’s counseled.

“You have a high shame system,” he declared so confidently it made me squirm.

“A what?” I asked in my head.

What the hell does he know? What does that even mean?

I’ve talked about The Avett Brothers here before. I think if forced to choose one group to listen to for the rest of time, I’d choose them.

You know when you don’t really know what Pandora station to request so you just default to the first thing that pops into your mind, that’s The Avett Brothers for me.

They have this song called “Shame”. Listen to it if you haven’t heard it before.

It’s a pretty fascinating story, and on this side of a bunch of soul-work, it feels a lot like my story. And maybe yours.

“The truth be known, the truth be told, my heart was always fairly cold, posing to be as warm as yours, my way of getting in your world…”

Shame is this emotion that I didn’t have much resilience to for many years, well basically until I was told what a high shame system I had.

Its neighbor on the feeling wheel is guilt.

I’m sure a psychologist will smirk at my simplicity here, but I like to now think of guilt as saying “I’ve done bad” and shame as saying, “I am bad.”

In fact, a definition of shame I like is, “an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor or regret.”

Or another, “an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self, withdrawal motivations, and feelings of distress, mistrust powerlessness and worthlessness.”

Yeah, when you put it like that, and the spotlight gets shined directly inside the soul, I can see why he said I had a high system of that toxicity.

“Shame, boatloads of shame, day after day, more of the same. Blame, please lift it off, please take it off, please make it stop.”

The brothers named Avett penned those words, and as I started to see all the many ways, applications and times where shame reared his lying head, sometimes I would sing out loud,

“Boatloads of shame…”

Just to name it.

And tell shame it’s a necessary feeling at times but one that doesn’t need to stick around for dinner and tell me how dirty my kitchen is, right after reminding me I’m a terrible husband, dad, businessman and son.

Because as I get to know him and see how cozy he was in my heart all that time, I’m realizing how much he likes to whisper bull💩of how bad I am instead of the True voice who reminds me of how loved I am.

“And everyone they have a heart and when they break and fall apart, they need somebody’s helping hand…”

“I used to say just let ‘em fall, it wouldn’t bother me at all, I couldn’t help then, now I can…”

Yeah, what he said.

And the only reason I can even barely help now is because someone had the courage to remind me who I really am, instead of letting me project my image onto them.

So when your heart breaks and falls apart, instead of playing the same old game like I was trying to, grab that helping hand.

And tell shame to hit the road.

Because you may have done bad. But you aren’t bad.





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