Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter: He knows our Shame

Lucy Toner
One of the many difficult things survivors deal with is an overwhelming sense of shame.  I remember well how it crept into my life, like a horrible disease that begins with symptoms that are almost unnoticeable, then grows in severity until it becomes crippling.

I fought it. Know that I did.  I didn't go down without a fight, but while my logical and surface part of my mind told me "what happened was not your fault", my emotional and much deeper rooted belief was that it was.  It happened because I was bad.

One day I was asked to substitute in one of the children's classes at church, the 4 yr olds.  I panicked.  I felt too unclean, too ashamed to be with those sweet little children and talk to them about the things of God.  I felt I had no right to speak of such things.  I was startled by this, but powerless to overcome it.

Then I was asked to give a prayer in a meeting...something I had previously enjoyed.  I couldn't do it.  I was embarrassed to say no, but I would have been even more ashamed if I had said yes.  How could I speak to God on behalf of the group?  I couldn't.

I stopped sharing comments in classes.  I had previously loved teaching, or giving a talk, but I could do none of them anymore.  What felt like the greatest blow was when I went to the temple.  The temple had always been a place of peace and comfort to me, but no more.  While I was in the temple, I felt miserable, ashamed, unworthy.  The pain was terrible.  I tried again another time with the same result.  My peace was taken from me.

I am doing better now.  I have begun to pray in church again, and well who knows...perhaps soon I will feel ready to speak or teach again. I am thinking of going to the temple has been a few years, maybe it is time.  I hope it is.

The reason I am sharing this today...of all for my fellow survivors.  I know your shame and your pain.  I know that telling you it is not your fault will not be enough to make it go away.  But I want you to know, that the Savior understands our shame.  He can help us, and we can turn to Him because He knows.

Philosophers throughout the ages have asked "why does God allow bad things to happen to good people".  I have asked that question myself, as a deeply personal question, not a philosophical one.  I don't know the answer, but I find comfort in knowing that Christ suffered too, so that He could help us with our pain.

He chose to come to earth during the time of the Roman rule.  He chose to be born in poor circumstances.  He chose to associate with people who were outcasts, the lepers, the sinners, the tax collectors.  And when it was time for His death, He allowed Himself to be killed in the most shameful way the Romans could think of.

The usual Jewish form of capitol punishment was stoning.  Pilate seems to have given them permission to do this, and yet that would not appease them.  They sought for crucifixion precisely because it was shameful.  Even the Romans did not use it for their "good" citizens.  It was reserved for slaves, and the most base criminals.

They always chose to do crucifixions in public areas, like well traveled roads, so that people would see those  who were being crucified, see them there naked.  Romans disrobed the people being crucified and attached them to crosses like animals, intentionally, they wanted the experience to be dehumanizing.  And all this in addition to the physical horrors.  No one deserves that sort of death, but especially not Christ, who had spent his life serving others, teaching, healing and uplifting, and yet there He was.  Innocent and treated with shame.  We, survivors, are too often weighed down by a shame we don't deserve.  Christ understands.  He has conquered death, and overcome shame.  He can help us do the same.

Photo Attribution: Lucy Toner


  1. Beautiful words, Leslie.

  2. Crucifixion was dehumanizing to all involved. The victim of course because s/he being difficult to look upon is disconnected from family and friend. But family and friend also because it is not possible or safe to give aid and comfort.

    That you know and report that Jesus and all victims of crucifixion were completely naked is to your credit. Most people think the victim had a small covering but if the earliest paintings are viewed then it is clear that the covering is disconnected and included only for the benefit of artist and viewer. Over the years the covering became connected and a large part of the meaning of "despising the shame of it" has been lost.

    Hebrews 12:2
    2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    I think "despising" above could mean "refusing to accept". Somehow I was able to latch onto the fact that their actions were to their shame not mine. I hand to you the gift of knowing that you can refuse to accept the shame of their actions. RRM

    1. Thank you that is very helpful. I was wondering about that very thing...about "despising the shame". I really like that idea of "refusing to accept". I will definitely ponder that some more.

  3. I think the following supports my understanding of "despising" as "refusing to accept":

    Hebrews 10:28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

    The LDS scriptures at least explain despised as rejected. We are to reject shame. So possibly awful things happen so that people will have the opportunity to learn to reject shame.

    A quick and outright rejection of the shame will not lessen the ugliness of the crime against our bodies and it will show the power of Christ in us as we say "The Lord judge between me and thee." RRM

    1. Excellent find, thanks so much for sharing that with me!

  4. This is the most beautiful post you've ever written, precisely because it gets to the heart of The Truth. Thank you for your insight and for sharing it with us. I look forward to your book.

    1. Jenny, thanks, I am so pleased that you liked this, because this is the kind of thing that my book is about. Stories or anecdotes from the scriptures, that help survivors to feel the Savior's love and concern. And if others who have not been abused find comfort and solace in it, that will be great too.


Sorry about the word verification, I hate it too, but spam has gotten bad lately.