Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Freedom from Shame
Freedom from Shame

Shame Is an Outside Voice

Friday, May 12, 2023

The voice of doubt, shame, and guilt blaring in our heads is not our voice. It is a voice we have been given by a society steeped in shame. It is the “outside voice.” Our authentic voice, our “inside voice,” is the voice of radical self-love!
—Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not an Apology  

CAC teacher and psychotherapist Jim Finley explores how trauma causes us to internalize shame, which keeps us from living from our true identity in God. 

This “you”—this internalized identity formed in trauma and abandonment—you start taking on as identity. You start taking it on as if it has the power to name who you are, which is the shame-based identity.  

It’s bad enough you had to go through the trauma, but what’s worse is we’re punitive with ourselves and … it creates the secrecy of a shame-based identity. One is afraid that if anyone would really see what I’m really like inside, no one would love me. Do you know why? Because I see what I’m really like and I don’t love me. Do you know why? Because I’ve internalized the fact [for example] that my parents didn’t love me…. 

Every trauma survivor knows the issue isn’t what was done to me. The issue is what everything that was done to me did to me and that I’ve internalized it. It’s just endless, the things that hinder us from becoming the person deep down that we really are and long to be…. In a sense, our real Higher Power is [often not God, but is instead] our shame-based belief that our shortcomings and faults and brokenness have the authority to name who we are. It’s the idolatry of brokenness over the Love that loves us as invincibly precious in our brokenness. This is really the key to this whole thing. It isn’t just that I’m broken; I must also admit that I believe I am what’s wrong with me….  

It’s such a powerful experience to be in the presence of someone who sees our brokenness—maybe because they live with us and it’s obvious, or it’s a therapist, or a friend, or at a recovery meeting—and who sees through the brokenness to the invincible preciousness of our self in the midst of our brokenness. When we risk sharing what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not invade us or abandon us, we can come upon within ourselves the pearl of great price, the invincible preciousness of ourselves in the midst of our brokenness.  

Finley describes the healing impact that such an accepting presence can have for us:  

Through a person’s unconditional positive regard for us, we can start to find our footing in an unconditional positive regard for ourselves. And that unconditional positive regard for ourselves is joining God in seeing who God knows us to be before the origins of the universe as invincibly precious, indestructible in God’s eyes.  


Adapted from James Finley, Mystical Sobriety (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2022), online course. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Unknown, Jessie Jones, Jennifer Tompos. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

The “mode of weeping” devotional has given meaning to what I’ve been going through these past seven months since my husband passed away. I’ve wept deeply and quite often repeatedly said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I’ve felt everything expressed in this quote from the devotional, “it’s an inner attitude where when I can’t fix it, when I can’t explain it, when I can’t control it, when I can’t even understand it, I can only forgive it. Let go of it, weep over it. It’s a different mode of being.” I wouldn’t have understood it either without going through it as I am now. But Jesus is faithful when he says he will comfort those who mourn. —Caroline M.  

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.