creating me [using words]

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. 


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11 thoughts on “Guilt and Shame Intrude

  1. Linda Cross on said:

    Interesting. I’ll have to think about this one awhile!

    Linda Cross 214.728.6457 Sent from my iPhone

    • Linda, yes, I think there are several layers/meanings to this one. I don’t know if clears anything up or muddies the waters to add a visual explanation like I did. And I don’t normally include my additional thoughts like that, but it somehow felt important.

  2. Diana Bridges on said:

    The images of trenchcoat and diamond are so vivid! Our uses of shame and guilt aren’t as precise as they probably should be. We often use the terms of ourselves and others without considering whether they’ve been earned or not. I’ve certainly done things I’ve rightfully been ashamed of, but in other cases the feelings of shame (or guilt) are there regardless of my belief that they shouldn’t be.

    • Yeah, so when you can’t get rid of shame by out-thinking it with logic, what then? I’m not sure, but I think I am trying to figure out how to less afraid of its unwelcome intrusion.

  3. dellisphelps on said:

    A teacher once told me (& I believe him) that guilt is a form of self-inflicted punishment that allows the “guilty” to continue some hurtful behavior (toward herself or another), that the feeling of guilt is a signal to cease that behavior and ask forgiveness (of the self or another).

    I really struggled to grasp the meaning of this teaching. I learned, like you, that guilt is also a teacher and that I have much to learn from the experience of it.

  4. dellisphelps on said:

    Reblogged this on dellisphelps and commented:
    After my current understanding of guilt as “permission to repeat hurtful behavior,” arrived, I made a vow to banish guilt from my life by amending my behavior. Yes, I had done some things to others for which I needed to ask their forgiveness, but most of the damage I had done (and sometimes continue to do) I did in the form of insidious self-destruction: Anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse, engagement in toxic relations and on and on and on. In my recovery, guilt is not welcome; only acknowledgement of a mistake made and a new intention to change the mistaken behavior. Over and over again. That’s all.

    • D. Yep. I agree with banning guilt. I’m thinking, when it’s going to intrude no matter what, then I might as well face it. See if I can pick its pocket for a the gem of truth that dismantles its power over me.

  5. Love your metaphor of the diamond in the coat. I’m a believer in balancing our vulnerability with our innate power. When one takes over the other, we need to prepare for struggles. Great post!

  6. You have definitely got to check into the work done by Brene Brown – her talk at is a great place to start. She’s a “shame and vulnerability researcher” and her studies have brought her to some of the same conclusion as you come to here. She’s also awesomely transparent at how much she dislikes being vulnerable and her journey of learning to “out-trick” shame.

    • I haven’t read her work, but Brene Brown’s name keeps popping up everywhere for me! I’m thinking it’s a sign that I need to buy one of her books . . .

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creating me [using words]


creating me [using words]

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