A few years ago, my son tried a newly acquired ninja move in his sister’s bedroom. As he mounted his foot, the drywall gave way. I found him dangling by a leg, his foot embedded in the wall. If such a thing were to happen today, I’d laugh and probably snap a photo to memorialize the hilarity. Not so in my earlier years. I took ample time to yell at him for not thinking through his actions. I dragged him all over the house, showing him every hole and mark he’d left from his past ventures, reminding him once again of all his prior mistakes.
In my ignorance, I believed that this tool was most effective in rearing a child in the way he should go. I now know that Shame has long-lasting consequences that are not only damaging to the child, but to those future relationships the he or she may develop and to the countless generations to come. Shame is learned and passed on.
In our pre-mortal existence, we know that Lucifer (Satan) proposed that Heavenly Father send him, rather than Jesus to redeem all mankind and not one would be lost. I’ve wondered how this would have come about. I believe that he intended to take away our choices, forcing us, controlling us to do his will. This of course was completely contrary to God’s plan in which we would be given agency so that we could think and act for ourselves and not be acted upon.
Using Shame in parenting is abuse. It’s a form of brainwashing or conditioning the child to behave a particular way, removing agency from the equation as Lucifer intended. We use it to show disproval and disagreement. It’s a way to train a child not to act, but to react as they are acted upon. I have no doubt that this system of parenting was developed by Lucifer himself.
In College I was watching television with a close friend in the basement of her home. Her dad appeared for a second then returned upstairs. My friend became visibly anxious and excused herself from the group. Later I found her in tears. She told me that her dad was mad that we had hijacked his television time. I saw nothing from her father that indicated that he was upset and asked how she knew. She just did. I think she had become conditioned. Whatever look he gave my friend caused in her a reaction that had been conditioned over her lifetime.
The raw effect of parenting by shame is that it causes children to believe that love is conditional. They are only deserving of love if they make good choices.
Let’s pursue that thought. What does a Shaming Parent do when the child obeys? Do they let the love flow in great abundance? No. It’s still conditional. I used to find myself saying, “That’s great but…” A Shaming Parent can always find a reason to withdraw and withhold love. Showing love is showing weakness; it undermines the control. Heaven forbid they start to think and act on their own.
The result is a child that is conditioned to aim for perfection and nothing less; because only through perfection might they reach that dangling carrot. And when they fall short time after time (as is the design of this existence), they begin to feel that they will never be good enough; nothing they do is worth the effort, they are broken, useless and unwanted. Their world is seen as black and white, right and wrong.
Some counter these feelings by creating alternate realities, convincing themselves and others that they are perfect and therefore able to be loved and happy. But the truth is they aren’t perfect, no one is; deep down they know this and so they don’t feel allowed to find joy and peace.
They turn to comparing themselves to others. Judging others’ shortcomings distracts from their own and dodges any opportunity to accept personal responsibility, reaffirming the false reality that they are perfect.
I have a theory that our perception of God is based on our perceptions of our parents. For much of my life I believed that I could only feel God’s love if I were perfect. I had a fundamental belief that I did not deserve the Atonement unless I did nothing wrong (wherein I would have no need for it).
Shaming our children can have a powerful impact on their relationship with God and understanding the Spirit and feeling the healing effects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Black and white thinking can be devastating to relationships and to the person’s well being as they battle with hypocrisies and fallout from their mistakes unable to apologize or even accept the possibility of doing anything wrong.
It’s like a test. We black and white thinkers only have one shot at this exam and there are only two outcomes, pass and fail. To pass we need a perfect score, 100%. If we get one problem wrong, dropping our score to 99.8%, we were something other than perfect and so we’ve failed. It’d be no different if we got an F. To some this might seem absurd. But to those that have been conditioned by shame, they will understand, and possibly even agree with the analysis.
The need to be perfect is an addiction and permeates every aspect of our lives. We live for praise. Some fall prey to emotional affairs. Others neglect their family while reaping praise from serving the world. We judge and criticize those around us, and mostly those closest to us. We create a paradigm where we can do no wrong. Such a world will eventually become unmanageable because it is not founded on principles of the Gospel like forgiveness and repentance. After a lifetime of perceived perfection we abandon sacred truths, break sacred covenants, and continue to point the finger elsewhere.
The first step for me was the hardest.
Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.
“Rarely do people caught in addictive behaviors admit to being addicted. To deny the seriousness of our condition and to avoid detection and the consequences of our choices, we tried to minimize or hide our behaviors. We did not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, we slipped deeper into our addictions. As our powerlessness over addiction increased, many of us found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and even God.” – ARP Manual, Step 1
The Perfect Addiction may be more subtle, less noticeable than say drugs or pornography, but just as damaging to our souls. Sins do not necessarily keep us out of heaven, not repenting of them will. The Perfect Addiction brings with it pride, resentment, unwillingness to forgive, and selfishness.
If any of this has hit home, or if you have found it offensive, hard to hear, please take some time to soul search. Take courage and look in the mirror. It was extremely difficult for me, but I’ll tell you that on the other side, life is wonderful and happy. Through daily repentance and the Atonement, I can over come the effects of shame in my own life and refrain from passing this addiction onto future generations.