Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Shame Based Families vs Grace Filled Families
In shame-based relationships you will find the following characteristics:
The message communicated is: “Something is wrong with you”; “You are defective”; “You don’t measure up”; “Why can’t you be like…”
The focus is on doing certain good behaviors and avoiding others as a means of earning love, gaining acceptance, acquiring approval, or proving value. Failure to perform results in shame.
Behavior is governed by rules or standards that are seldom, if ever, spoken out loud. In fact, sometimes the only way they are discovered is when they are broken. There is a “can’t talk about it” rule in effect- which means no one is supposed to notice or mention problems; and if you speak out about a problem, you are the problem. This forces people to keep quiet. There is also a “can’t-win” rule in effect. For instance, children are taught never to lie; they are also told to never tell Grandma her meatloaf tastes bad. No matter how hard you try to keep these contradictory rules, you always fail to perform. And failure to perform results in shame. These rules tend to govern future relationships, unless they are realized and broken on purpose.
4.Communicating Through “Coding”:
Talking about feelings or needs leaves you feeling ashamed for being so “selfish”. Talking about problems breaks the “can’t talk about it” rule and gets you shamed for being the problem. Therefore, family members learn to say things in code, or they send messages to each other indirectly through other people.
Family members are taught to turn to things and people other than God’s acceptance as the measure of their value and identity. The measuring stick becomes: how things look; what people think; religious behavior; acquiring possessions.
6.Putting Kids Through A Hard time:
Kids are involved in the messy and imperfect process of finding out about life. But the family cares most about how things look and what people think. Therefore, just being a kid becomes a shaming thing. Children must learn to act like miniature adults in order to avoid shame.
7.Preoccupation With Fault And Blame:
Since there is such a focus on performance in this family, lack of performance must be tracked down and eradicated. Fault and blame are the order of the day. The purpose of the question, “Who is responsible?” is to find out who to blame. That way the culprit can be shamed, humiliated, and made to feel so bad that he won’t do the behavior again.
8.Strong On “Head Skills”:
Family members become experts at defending themselves. Blaming, rationalizing, minimizing, and denial are just some of the ways people try to push away the shame message- usually in vain.
9.Weak On “Heart Skills”:
“Can’t feel” is another rule governing this system. Feelings are wrong, selfish or unnecessary. People in shame-based families don’t know how they feel or how to respond to their feelings. These are emotionally reactive places.
Because love and acceptance was earned on the basis of behavior, but never received apart from performance, shame-based families are characterized by member who are empty on the inside, full-looking on the outside.
Ten characteristics of grace-filled relationships:
1.Out-Loud Affirming (Vs. Out-Loud Shaming):
In grace-filled families, members are told they are loved and accepted, capable, valuable and supported out loud. Phrases like “I love you,” “You are so capable,” “I’m here for you when you need me,” “I’m glad God put you in our family,” “I’m glad you’re a boy/girl,” “I feel good when I’m with you,” and using a person’s name when speaking to him are just some of the out-loud ways to affirm people.
2.People-Oriented (Vs. Performance-Oriented):
We all need an environment where we feel our needs are met because of who we are and not because of what we do. In grace-filled families, love and acceptance does not fluctuate depending on how people act. People are affirmed for being who they are. In shame-based families, behavior is the most important thing. Who you are comes in last.
3.Out-Loud Rules And Expectations (Vs. Unspoken Rules):
In a grace-filled family, rules are there to serve people; people are not there to serve the rules. In order for rules to serve the family most effectively, everyone needs to know what the rules are.
4.Communication Is Clear And Straight (Vs. Coding):
Coding isn’t helpful for anyone. Children are great observers but terrible interpreters. People receiving your messages should not have to decode them. When you want to send a message decode it first yourself, and then send it straight. Don’t triangle, do not get in the middle of other people’s relationships and run messages.
5.God Is The Source (Vs. Idolatry):
God is our Source. He is our need-meeter, our vindicator, our defender, the one who has the last word on our value and acceptance. We are not valuable and acceptable because of how much money we make, the clothes we wear, our church attendance or because we have been faithful in our giving.
6.Children Are Enjoyed (Vs. Giving The Kids A Hard Time):
In grace-filled families it’s okay for them to act like kids. Normal, healthy kids are “messy” about this business of growing up.
7.Responsibility And Accountability (Vs. Fault And Blame):
Fault and blame are used in shame-based families to punish children for their lack of performance. They become tools in the process of trying to control the behavior of others.
8.“Head Skills” Are Used For Learning (Vs. “Head Skills” Used For Defending:
In grace-filled families, thinking is for the purpose of learning. In shame-based families it is used to defend, to blame, to make excuses and to get out of being responsible. In shame-based families, the question “Why did you do that?” is a trap. There is no answer that is acceptable. Whatever you say will be analyzed and criticized. In grace-filled families people are pre-approved, and the question “Why did you do that?” is just a simple inquiry to understand the reason why something was done.
9.Feelings Are Valid And Useful (Vs. Weak On “Heart Skills”):
Feelings are not right or wrong, they simple exist. The choices we make in response to our feelings determine good or bad, right or wrong results of our feelings-that is, whether they are helpful or damaging. Grace-filled families recognize the feelings and expression of emotions as opportunities for family members to connect with one another.
10.It’s Okay For Outsides To Match Insides (Vs. Empty People Learning To Act Full):
In grace-filled families, what is real is more important than how things look. Life is seen with a process perspective rather than an event perspective. This means that people don’t have to react, or attempt to “cure” behavior forever. Because God is involved, you don’t have to panic: The story is not over, even if it doesn’t look good right now. Unacceptable behaviors are about poor choices, not about our value and acceptance as people. Grace-filled family members don’t have to fix one another in order to fix themselves.
This was originally taken from Families where Grace is in place by Jeff Vanvonderen. I have edited it to reflect our thoughts.