I would like to introduce you to the meanest, badest, most diabolical sisters to ever roam the earth. Everyone of us has had an encounter with them at some point in our lives. Some of us have even invited them home to meet the family. You actually already know them fairly well because these girls really get around, but you may have never realized how destructive these siblings are because you never knew they were related. You invite one home for a visit and all three of these &#r*!!@’s move in.
They are Guilt, Shame and Control. For artists this trio can be particularly difficult to evict for several reasons.
First of all, they come innocently in a progression which seems to be quite natural. As human beings we are oh so aware of when we do something wrong, miss the mark, offend someone, fail, don’t do a good job, or just absolutely blow it. We understand that we have failed ourselves, others and the Lord, all at the same time and we naturally feel remorse or guilt for having flubbed it. Then we’ll chastise ourselves, make vows that we’ll never do that again, then we try to forget it and move on. (A strange little form of denial.) This is the innocent little sister that we often invite home to hang out for a while. We know its still around somewhere but try to leave it undisturbed.
When it happens a few more times, as it always does, we wake up one morning to find that a slightly older and tougher sister has somehow also joined you for breakfast; shame. Shame is the painful feeling that over time makes us feel unworthy and tends to try to prophesy more of the same for our future. The feeling is as heavy as it is relentless. In addition to the things we have messed up, there have also been numerous people in our lives that have contributed to shame through things they have said or done to us. It doesn’t take much to remind us of it to feel its full weight again and it seems that the enemy has numerous ways to poke it and prod it so that we are consistently aware of its presence.
What then is our response? We willingly invite the third sister, Control, to move in permanently so that she can help us deal with the other two that are slowly trying to take over the whole house. The motive is simply self preservation. We don’t want to be consistently reminded of, nor feel the emotions connected with how we messed up and what it’s done to us and others. Unfortunately, Control always employs highly dysfunctional methods of dealing with stuff that sometimes makes it worse; whether its aggression or defense, staying busy or isolating, eating or TV, or simply absolute denial that there are any issues at all. Then it gets really ugly when we try to control others, along with our circumstances, in an attempt to minimize the possibility of disturbing the accumulated shame and pain and encountering more.
This is always destructive to our creativity because typically it requires us to live life out of our head, rather than our hearts. We have to be constantly on guard against stirring the girls needlessly. That takes a lot of vigilance, as well as a lot of energy. Creativity flows from the heart, not your head. Your heart is expressive. Your head is reactive. They should be interactive, not adversarial. But that’s what guilt and shame drive you to … an irresolvable internal conflict; a sure fire creativity killer.
So what’s the cure? First, it’s realistically own the guilt. If you did something that making amends would resolve, do it. If someone else made you feel guilty for something you did, follow Matthew 5:23-25. Now I specifically chose the word “realistically’ because the enemy of your soul and creativity will always try to manipulate the perception of events to your hurt. There are times when we need to just keep it to ourselves. For instance; If I was convinced that I had wrongly judged Mary as being a self-absorbed idiot, I wouldn’t go to Mary and ask her forgiveness and declare what I originally perceived her to be. That would create a breach when previously none existed. Ask the Lord to help you see which ones require intervention and which to leave alone.
Secondly, forgive yourself. God is not pleased when we will choose to forgive others, but will never choose to forgive ourselves. You probably have learned to grant others grace, but seem to fail to do it for yourself. Follow Mark 12:28-31 … choose to treat yourself lovingly. It’s a command, not a suggestion.
Then you need to ask God to show you every habit pattern you’ve adopted that causes you to judge yourself harshly and resort to control as a defense against incurring more guilt and shame. Granting yourself grace means letting yourself off the hook personally. You will make mistakes. Things won’t always work out as you hoped. You are a human being and you will let others down. Face It. You will never be perfect, and that’s Okay. Forgive yourself and move on. I am not saying to sear your conscience so that nothing bothers you. Do what you have to and move on. Resorting to control is a sure sign things have gotten out of control.
Others will make poor decisions that affect you directly, sometimes intentionally, but more often it is unintentional. The bottom line is that what they chose to do is not your fault. Forgive and refuse the guilt and shame that others often want to lay on you as an excuse for being butt-heads. In so doing you will in time become largely unoffendable. Yes, stuff will happen, but you do not have to have the three ugly step-sisters move in with you as a result, and your creativity will not be diminished either.
If this is still a difficulty for you, there may be other outside agents responsible, such as generational issues, or perhaps iniquitous family belief systems that need to be addressed. A friend or someone trained in these areas can be of great help. Maintaining your peak creativity or enhancing skill sometimes takes work, but it’s well worth it! When Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life, (as we say in the South) He wasn’t just whistling Dixie.