Oh hey, shame, you again?

My relationship with this nag called shame, is lengthy.  She has spent a lot of time reminding me of who I used to be and I have expelled a lot of energy trying to remind myself who I am today.

Like, when she used to tell me to put on a sweater before heading out to church; pay no mind it was ninety-three degrees outside. But I would listen to her and go ahead and put it on because wearing a sweater in the summer was still a lot more comfortable than sitting in church with my tattoos in full view.

In certain settings, shame would tell me my inked body made me stick out like the harlot wearing a red dress on a virgins wedding day. And when you have a bad habit of struggling with poor self-worth, like I did, the last thing you want to do is stick out, in a bad way.

One time, shame told me to keep my jacket on during a first date. She sure does like coats, that nag; anything to cover up who you really are in hopes of painting a pretty picture to help you fit in. This time it happened to be the first date of my later-to-be husband. He laughs while reminiscing about that day. It was June in Colorado, and a high of 85 outside. We met for lunch, after a week or so of talking on the phone, and I wanted to make a good impression. As we sat outside in the patio area, the heat was mighty warm, but that jean jacket was fastened up tight.


Shame had reminded me that this was a nice, conservative guy and although we connected intimately on a heart level, my tattoos might be a deal breaker, and being a single mom, shame also reminded me that I was already treading on thin ice here, so we shouldn’t push it.

Eight years later, my husband still shakes his head at how silly it was for me to cover up on our first date. And, looking back, I now see the idiotic perspective that shame endorsed. Because the truth was, I loved my tattoos! Certain colors and cuts of clothing allowed their striking originality to peek out, exposing my creative spirit. People would compliment me on how beautiful they were, regularly.

So how could something I deeply adored be such a trigger for shame? (Now aint THAT a shame!)

Because I cared what Christians thought of me. Christians were the only ones in my life that ridiculed me for having tattoos. Christians were the only ones heaping shame on me for wanting them and encouraged me to “cover up”. The Christians in my life were the only people who never acknowledged or complimented the color and artistry of  the unavoidable presence of my tattoos.

I needed the new Christian man in my life to see my faith as virtuous and pure; I needed my new Church to embrace me and the “church ladies” to welcome me into their secret club. So, shame was there to help me conceal the real me.

The rest of the world, outside my Christian bubble, accepted me and were nothing but hospitable to my colorful presence; the rest of the world provided sanctuary for me to reveal my true self.

As a renewed believer, eager to begin living out an authentic faith, shame was working double time on me.

This nag called shame kept me believing I had to work on appearing more beautiful to compensate for the controversial art I imprinted on my body. Shame kept me quiet in church because unlike others whose sins remained in the past, my sins (based on my own shame-filled perspective) remained etched onto my skin, making other people feel very uncomfortable.

But what I have finally discovered throughout my extensive experience of this nag called shame, is that she retreats when countered. She is quite a wimp, actually.

I had decided, just to spite her, to get one of my older tattoos touched up. With its vivid beauty restored, I was reminded once again of my love for it in the first place, and my wild, creative spirit leaped in jubilation. Shame, on the other hand, gasped in disgust and sat her booty down in the back of my mind.

Later, I decided to get a new tattoo, one that symbolized my love and discipleship to the Author of life. Again, my spirit danced in freedom while shame left the room with crossed arms and a  scowl upon her face.

You see, shame doesn’t like to be challenged. She is used to showing up and not having to do much before she wins the duel. Shame is a yellow-belly who prefers to be the one doing the picking. When put on the defense, she retreats like the coward she is.

I used to fight against the notion that tattoos were associated with rebellion, but for me, it couldn’t be closer to the truth. My tattoos are in rebellion against shame. My tattoos are in rebellion against discrimination, prejudice and narrow, judgemental thinking. My tattoos represent the greatest rebellion of shame my soul has ever known.

And today, when it comes to my battles with shame, the only sweater-wearing happening these days, the only covering up going on, is when its cold outside.



{This post is part of Real Talk Tuesdays, a link-up hosted by The Human Impulse.

Come on over and join the conversation or listen in on how we can break down the influence of shame in our lives!}



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Communications major. Journalist. Willing: to have the tough conversations. Living out the belief that communication strengthens connection.

6 thoughts on “Nag”

  1. Excellent post and it’s great getting to hear a bit of your how-I-met-my-husband back story. (I loooove true love stories.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen your tattoos, but I love seeing people wear their truth in art. It’s a beautiful thing.

    1. Awe Jamie, thanks for reading, I’m really working at letting my life peek out more in my writing. Thank you for leading the way.

  2. Sister!!!! This’ll preach! Kicking Shame’s arse! You! Thank you. This was so powerful to read! I didn’t know you had tatoos, but knowing you from 201 and your heart makes me love all the more with or without the tats! You are real and true!!

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