Growing up in a fundamentalist cult in Australia, shame was a part of every day life. If we didn’t get enough people to convert to the cult, we were shamed publicly and asked if we wanted our friends and family to go to hell. Even back then I was embarrassed to “share my faith” as if I knew something was wrong but couldn’t understand what. Women and girls were told that if we were sexually assaulted, it was our fault. We must have been wearing something immodest, or been flirtatious, or even wearing an ankle bracelet on the wrong ankle. If you were a grown, married woman, and your husband cheated on you, it was because you “let yourself go” or because he wasn’t being satisfied sexually because you were a rebellious whore. And if you were not heterosexual, well, that was a sin worthy of burning in a pit of fire for eternity.
I was sexually abused multiple times as a little girl. In fact, I have some repressed memories from before I was old enough to remember, related to some sort of sexual abuse or sexual knowledge that little girls should never have. This played out in my life over and over again which is how I know. I was also a lesbian in a fundamentalist cult. Needless to say, I have a shit ton of shame surrounding sex and sexuality, as well as a whole host of other things.
Shame has been one of those constants in my life. In fact, I’ve been out of the cult for years now and I still have trouble believing that God loves me. I’m constantly trying to be good enough for God to love. I have always loved God in the best way I knew how, except maybe for that brief foray into Paganism last year where I discovered what it was I truly wanted and turned back to God. Even in the cult, I did what I did out of my love and devotion to God, even though I had no idea what God was like. It’s why the twelves steps talk about “God as we understood him.” Our understanding of God changes over time.
Nadia Bolz-Weber’s new book “Shameless” which releases today, is an extremely important book. While her focus is shame related to sexuality, I found it to speak life into me over all sorts of shame, and got me thinking about shame and it’s role in my life and how I can ditch shame altogether. This is a life-giving book. For those who have grown up with shame, it’s vitally important. This book breathed life into my soul. I’m still digesting the sheer amount of things that spoke to me.
“Shameless” is a book that I will need to read over and over again, until I am able to live a life free of shame. As far as my relationship with God goes, it’s been one of the most important books I have ever read. It’s one that will remain in my collection for years to come. It’s worth a read for anyone struggling with any kind of shame, not just related to sexuality.
And as a lesbian growing up in a fundamentalist cult, all I can say is the entire book is worth it just for chapter four alone, where we are introduced to a lesbian woman who grew up with shame surrounding her sexuality.
#ShamelessBook releases today. Go get your copy. It is worth every cent!