Guilt and Shame Intrude
Guilt, be slain, you false accuser,
ha-satan, retreat, you devil . . .
. . . or, might I show hospitality
to my enemy? Give welcome at the door?
What gift is hidden in your lurking
presence? None! None!
cries my wounded child, huddled in fear,
but, “Shh, shh, I will protect you from
our visitor, even as I feed him bread.”
I turn towards the intrusion,
I want you dead and gone!
But I look into your malevolent eyes instead
and wonder what you’ll teach me
as I refuse to cave under torment.
You were going to come in anyway;
might as well seat you at the table
where I can see and study
rather than be stabbed in the back.
Your lips curve in sinister smile,
but I have unnerved you, being so forward.
I will force you to speak clearly.
No sleepy whispers in black masks,
no sneaking in through bedroom window.
You will sit here in my lamp-lit rooms
and I will hear your case, unflinching.
In the inner folds of your long coat
there is a tiny but brilliant diamond.
I can tell by the way you finger the lining
of your gruff garment and by the stance
of your defensive posture that
though you’ve come to pillage and plunder,
you’ve got a prize of your own.
All the stealing intended to distract me
from noticing that what you are hiding
belongs to me. I recognize its glint.
Even through folds of fabric,
it lets off a shine–
it is the small and righteous truth,
searing as the sun, that shame
attempts to hide. It is the gift
of my own vulnerability; it is the treasure
of being who I am without any fear.
Friends: You do not have to bar the door or
wield a weapon; just out-trick the trickster, knowing,
Shame never visits your house
without a diamond in his trench coat.
*I picture this scene in my mind: a small cabin in a dark wood–one open room with kitchen, den, and fireplace and a small dark bedroom in back. Ha-satan means “the accuser” in Hebrew, and he–Guilt/Shame–comes as an intruder in the night and as accusations usually go, intends to sneak up on me when my defenses are down and steal from my modest house of wisdom. He used to be able to rob me at will, but my instincts have improved, and this time I notice him. At first, I feel aggressive and afraid–the inner child of my psyche is screaming at me to get him out. But then I have the idea to stop being afraid and face him head-on, without malice. In the end, this decision to welcome my enemy enables me to learn something valuable and his ability to pillage and destroy is disarmed.
And it seems I am finding that lighting lamps when shame intrudes helps me see through the lining to the glimmer of truth that is meant to be mine, shame only being nothing much but an over-sized coat that cannot harm me if I choose to look at that which I fear.