Posted by: scintillatingspeck | October 30, 2012

Conscientious objection.

Guilt: I made a mistake.
Shame: I am a mistake.
– Brené Brown

Throughout the day, every day, lately, I’m knocked off-kilter by waves of shame.  The heat in my face, the churning in my stomach– the terror that everything I touch will become tainted, ruined, by my irredeemable hands.  I should have known this would happen, I tell myself.  This is the consequence of radical truth-telling.  What do you expect, for doing the equivalent of standing there stark naked, feeling as hideous as a person can possibly feel?

I want to look carefully at this moment in  the “swampland of the soul,” as the Jungians say.  The risk of turning away from it is that it will perpetuate itself, drag me down into the muck, feel so bloody awful that I will shut down.  There would be no more writing.  There would be a return to a sort of living death inside.  No.  I refuse.  I will welcome it at the door.  I will offer it unconditional friendship.

Here I am, as lumpy and imperfect as possible.  I have accused myself of being an idiot, a fool, overly dramatic, an embarrassment.  The usual path, the traveled path, is to bludgeon myself into submission, to demand that I “pull myself together,” to crack the whip of “discipline,” to allow the inner drill sergeant to yell obscenities and commands.  Supposedly this will lead me to “dignity” and “acceptance” by others.

Except it doesn’t.  It never has.  It’s a circular path.  There’s no dignity or acceptance to be found there, no matter how many layers of clothing I put back on.  I pile on layers upon layers, hiding, largely numb, only periodically allowing into my awareness the thought that underneath, there is only an ugly, destructive force, something that must be kept under tight control.

I won’t do it.  Not anymore.  Don’t you see that my heart is blasted wide open?  I’m still alive, damn it.  I’m not dead yet.  Who will stand on the side of compassion, if not me?  Who will be my ally in confronting pain and suffering, if not me?  Who will lay down the weapons, if not me?

If I lay waste to my own most vulnerable internal landscape, what’s to stop me from ravaging the rest of the world?  If I’m willing to treat myself like dirt (no, far worse than dirt, since I do love the dirt), how can I possibly treat anyone else with the utmost love and kindness?  If I see myself as a microcosm of the human experience, and if I truly believe that all change comes from within, how can I justify running away from, and thus perpetuating, this cycle?

I am a conscientious objector, from now on.  I am laying down the whip.  Come, weeping woman, into your own arms.  Tell me of your embarrassment, your shame.  Tell me about your fear of driving away those you love.  Tell me about the the world, how dearly you love it, how devastated you are to bear witness to it.  You are seen and heard and felt.  This is the dignity of the truth.  You can lie sobbing in it.  No need to stand up straight.




  1. I’m writing quotes from this to hang on the bulletin board over my desk. Thank you.

  2. Have a little taste of Jung: “In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life.
    That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ.
    But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?
    Then, as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed: there is no more talk of love and long-suffering; we say to the brother within us, ‘Raca,’ and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world; we deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves, and had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.” (C.G. Jung, CW 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East, Chapter V, “Psychotherapy or the Clergy,” § 519-520)

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