Slogans flood my newsfeed, suggesting I not get tripped up on my past. I have only to look forward, not re-read that chapter. Don’t let others define me, let history be just that. I’m not sure who these cliches and little seeds of “wisdom” help, it isn’t me. Anger and frustration are generally my response, rarely do I find encouragement or comfort, certainly I have never felt empowered. This high speed digital age doesn’t let mistakes of the past stay there. Real stories reduced to sound bites in order to garner clicks, generate traffic, the lives involved hardly matter. This world does not forgive well, it certainly does not forget.
Last night I read of a young woman in Italy who took her life after a scandal surrounding a sex tape she made willingly with her partner. She shared it with an ex-boyfiend and two others who decided the world needed to see this. What in God’s name was she thinking, right? Except she clearly wasn’t thinking that it would go viral, that her face would stare out from t-shirts, phone covers, magazines. She couldn’t escape even though she fought legally to have the video removed from the internet. Once it was out, it was out of her control. A mistake made became too big, never to be forgotten. One year after the video was shared, this 31 year old woman gave up trying to forget, to ask the world to not define her by this one lapse in judgement. I am sickened by the world’s loss of God’s child, another one we just couldn’t help exploiting simply because we could hit that share button. We are all complicit in her death. Should she have know better? She wasn’t a child, she was old enough to understand what could happen if she let anyone into her privacy, it was no longer hers. Yet at what point do we say, “Oh honey, I get it. I have made mistakes too. I will pledge to delete this thing anytime it pops up and ask my friends to do the same. I will write messages to any organization that tries to slip this into a news clip, telling them to stop, I don’t want it. I am with you honey. Will you do the same for me?”
We are all broken, make no mistake. For years I thought my mistakes were bigger, worse than anyone else. I allowed shame to rule me, keep me in the shadows. I thought if I tried hard enough to be someone else, maybe those cliches would work. I was wrong, so very wrong. Wasted years of God’s child sitting on the sidelines, afraid of exposure, unsure when the next judgement would hit or from where. A horrible time in my life, over 2 decades ago, still tries to follow me now. Somehow I have weathered the judgments, the lost jobs and relationships. I created my own world removed from clicks and cliques, from whispers and wonderings. I don’t need cliches to tell me how to deal with my past. I am my past but I am more than that. I am my today and hope for my tomorrow. I am strong enough now to have created a village, a community that rejects shaming, that doesn’t share hurtful videos or gossip. They know we could all be the target so easily, We all have secrets, some haven’t been exposed, yet.
My heart aches for this young woman, for the thousands of others out there who are breaking apart in shame. God wants so much more for them, from us. As I have shared my broken life, I have collected more and more broken souls, people who rejoice in being authentic and know there is no room for shame in our community. We don’t have space here for judgement, no time for digging in the past. I don’t care about anyone else’s junk, mine is enough to carry. I wake every morning reminding myself that I am worthy, I am now. God how I wish this woman could have gotten to her now on the other side of shame. The old AA adage “secrets keep us sick” just doesn’t apply here, sometimes sharing makes us sicker, called viral for a reason.
I didn’t know of her story until it was too late. There is still time for others. For all my broken sisters and brothers, I am with you. I know shame. I have made mistakes. Stay with us, get to the other side. I promise to never share your secrets. Come and sit with us, our little collection of the broken. No one will ask you questions, no platitudes or suggestions it will be easy. Come and rest child, you aren’t alone. God is here among us. You are worthy. The only thing we will share is grace.