“There were maybe 5 kids sitting in a car across the street,” author Kara Powell says, recalling how she tripped and fell as a teenager. “I remember them laughing at me as I picked myself up. But that was in front of five kids, and it was over in five minutes. Today, if someone caught a moment like that on a smartphone and shared it on social media, that shame could live with the kid for the rest of high school.”

The merging of public and private

teen shameIn recent years, awareness of shame has intensified in our society and our children are not immune. Psychologist Brene Brown describes an inner sense of unworthiness, often rooted in trauma and embarrassing experiences. Children may come to feel they are bad or good based upon what their community says about them.

The Hunger Games

Andy Crouch observes that some of the most powerful dynamics of today’s youth culture are preoccupied with shame and fame. In the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen and her fellow tributes make every move under the watchful eyes of her nation’s culture of spectacle. “The power of the trilogy is that it centers on a young woman trying to maintain goodness and honor in a world that seems to offer only fame and shame,” observes Mr. Crouch.

tween girl happyResilience to shame

He continues, “The remedy for shame is not becoming famous. It is not even being affirmed. It is being incorporated into a community with new, different and better standards for honor. It’s a community where [for example] weakness is not excluded but valued; where honor-seeking and boasting are repudiated, where connection is important.” This kind of community can give children shame resilience.

Children who believe in God experience shame resilience when they internalize the good news of God’s provisions for covering shame and guilt.

Furthermore, children acquire shame resilience as we encourage them toward self-care, which may mean pulling away from unhealthy people and self-defeating situations. The ability to differentiate and yet maintain the connection can be profoundly redemptive.”

How do you generate shame resilience for the important children in your life?

(Note: Mr. Crouch’s complete article here.)


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