‘So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory’–1 Corinthians 10:31.
Why do we feel shame when we have joy? Have you noticed that in our society, we tend to feel guilty, not just when we’ve done something perceived as wrong, but also when we are happiest.
I’ve got an addiction that I only succumb to once a year. Thankfully, my addiction is only available for a few weeks out of the year; but I’ve learned to stock up so I can imbibe all year long. Thin Mints. Yep. That’s my addiction. Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. And I get several boxes of Samoas–they’re my daughter’s favorite. I get enough to last through December. Just a box every few months so that they keep their special occasion feel. My
dealer … er … ‘supplier’ … no that doesn’t sound any better … FRIEND! That’s a great word! My friend covertly meets me at McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A–wherever there’s a parking lot, really. We make the exchange: Me handing over a check for more money than I would ever spend on cookies, and her handing me an ungodly number of cookie boxes. This year it qualified as a ‘case’ of cookies … That would be 12 boxes.
I’m not proud of my addiction. I’ve realized just how much shame I feel with those boxes of cookies hidden in my room until the right amount of need-t0-cry-for-an-evening-rough-day reminds me that I can feel better–not fixed–just better. A couple of years ago, my friend met me at McDonald’s for some coffee, then we went out to her trunk. She opened it up revealing cases of the cookies. I ‘shopped’ to my heart’s content; and as we said goodbye, several women came up to her looking over their shoulders and whispering, “Are you selling those?” I laughed, left her to her other sales and drove out of town back to my home–with a sleeve of opened Thin Mints riding shotgun.
How often have I passed by a table outside of a store with adorable little girls selling their cookie wares and felt just a little self-righteous about my ability to say, ‘No, thank you’, while others just cannot help themselves. Then, when I’ve gone out of town to purchase mine (so no one knows just how many I hoard in my home), I feel shame eating the incredible chocolatey-minty goodness that makes me so happy on my hour-long ride back home. I’ve noticed that as I find freedom from shame, I don’t eat as many cookies in one sitting, nor do I have to do it covertly. Which leads me to believe that shame can lead to addictions. And, in my case, to cookie comas!
Instead of loathing myself for enjoying a few cookies, I can rejoice in the moments of bliss that having a couple of them give me after a stressful day. Instead of hiding my ‘stash’, and secretly scarfing some down when no one is looking, I can savor them and enjoy the serenity of breathing in and breathing out when life throws me the curve balls. Instead of shame, I find freedom.
Does this work for all addictions. Absolutely NOT! Some addictions need re-direction to healthier options. Sex, drugs, alcohol and even sugar addictions should be overcome, not managed. Does that mean that those who struggle with destructive addictions and unhealthy living cannot find blissful moments? NO! They just need to find healthier options on their road to freedom. They still need release from the shame of their addiction; but that release should not give them justification to continue it–just as I cannot justify eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints and throwing my body into a cookie coma.
But we all can revel in moments of joy without shame. And one thing I have learned with Girl Scout Cookies:
Buying cookies should not feel like a drug deal.
Have you ever felt shame when you’ve done something not shameful? Have you learned how to live in freedom?