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July 17, 2024

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John JRMJanuary 15, 2017

Thank you Dr. Hanks - much more needs to be written and discussed regarding shame and its impact on individuals, the Church and society. For those seeking more insight about the personal neurobiology of shame, the works of Dr. Dan Siegel (UCLA and the MIndsight Institue) and "The Soul of Shame" by Dr. Curt Thompson MD are excellent treatises on shame. Thompson, a Christian theologian offers some interesting insight into religion and shame.

Gayle McMullinJanuary 11, 2017

Early in my life, (I am 73 years old), I felt the pressure to be a "Perfect Mormon Mother". When I was in my 40s and since, the lessons I have heard, especially in Relief Society, have been more about striving to be the best I can be, but not worry if I am not "Perfect" yet. I was taught by one Relief Society teacher that we are here to learn and if we were perfect, we wouldn't need to live this earthly life. We could be translated. Now, at my age, I feel good about myself in the close family we have and all the love and caring that I can show but I strive every minute of every day to do better.I don't "beat myself up" for not being perfect yet. Each time I make a change for the better, I like who I am and it makes me want to improve more.

Rachel MoserJanuary 10, 2017

This is a great article. A huge part of my coaching program deals with helping people overcome their shame. Every client I have worked with who has any sexually based addiction has shame issue at the ROOT of their addiction. (And even teenagers who are promiscuous have the same root issues.) And every client I have had who deals with anxiety or perfectionism also has Shame as a key player in their thought process and emotional processing. The resolution is not just a simple "think differently" solution. It is NOT just a cognitive process. These beliefs are written upon our hearts. It requires a mind, body, spirit, and emotional paradigm shift in how we see ourselves,how we define the purpose of life, and how we define our relationship with God. Is life a learning and refining process of BECOMING and every mistake is a chance to learn and grow? OR or is it a TEST and every mistake I make proves I'm NOT WORTHY? (Those who are seeped in shame hear the phrase "Life is a test" through a very different lens than some might realize. Filtered through a SHAME LENS, they don't see the atonement properly. They don't believe they are "worthy" of the atonement.) Is God a set of loving parents who sent us here to learn to become like Them, and they are there to help us through the process? OR is God a judge simply sifting the good humans from the bad humans so He only has to reward the best of the best? There is deep healing that needs to occur on a individual basis, but we also have to begin looking at how we are perpetuating certain limiting beliefs and shaming patterns within our church CULTURE. That is why I get really emotional/vocal when I hear certain comments in church that I know reinforce shame. It is important to understand that SHAME and GUILT/Godly Sorrow are NOT the same thing. Some people are more susceptible to shame than others because of their upbringing, but most if not all of us deal with Shame on one level or another. We all could use a little help in this issue.

D HallJanuary 10, 2017

Happy Hubby, you have identified an interesting point. We don't hear advice like this from general conference. They do address this issue often--feelings of inadequacy, not measuring up to an ideal. I think there are at least a couple of talks every conference on this. And they do have a different take on it, don't they. Personally, I like their take better. For some people, I think that taking Dr. Hanks' approach too far can lead to rationalizing.

SylviaJanuary 10, 2017

I have a daughter who has strayed and lived a not very "pure" life. She tells herself that her way of living is fine. She cannot bear the shame and guilt of going to church and told that to be happy in marriage you must be pure. I so wish that when we hear speakers on chastity they would assume that their are people there who are not pure, and need hope and encouragement.

JeffJanuary 10, 2017

Becky L. - I'm not understanding why you are disappointed ("once again") with the presentation of this article. Julie is talking about the unfortunate effects of shame in the context of our LDS culture, and it sounds like you agree with her concerns. But her article's theme isn't about the Atonement -- and I'm quite sure Julie is well versed in the Atonement and its importance in our theology. If anything, she is saying that a shame-based culture is one which prevents people from accessing the power of the Atonement because in many ways it makes people feel unworthy of that access. As a church leader, I can't underscore enough how much of a barrier the shame mindset creates to healing, and as I said, to access of the Atonement. I've seen it countless times. You say you think Julie is off track and that people will believe her and this will "further alienate people from the Gospel." How do you think this will happen? Respectfully, I think it is the exact opposite: the shame culture has alienated many people from the church (unintentionally, to be sure -- and we are not the only religion that struggles with this issue), and I believe we could avoid a lot of that alienation by understanding how removing shame from our mindset would also remove barriers to healing, including the healing Christ can bring.

JoanJanuary 10, 2017

Good article. Thank you so much!!!

KLD2003January 10, 2017

As a convert to the church, I feel hurt that this article puts the blame on the church for people feeling guilt. This is the church of Jesus Christ. It is HIS ideals we need to emmulate. He said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." I was taught that means you keep progressing towards perfection. And when you falter the Atonement is there to help you get back to the path for eternal life. I know this concept has changed my life and given me purpose. When I make stupid choices, I do feel some guilt but I never blame the church. Stop worrying about what other people think of you and follow the Savior. And STOP blaming Jesus' church!

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhDJanuary 10, 2017

Lynn, For clarity my use of the word "viewed" is how I want to see & experience myself. I was not referring to how others view me. A Happy Hubby & Kim Eggington & anonymous - Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I'm so glad you found this article to be helpful. Shame underscores most of the issues we struggle with as a culture. Becky Littlefield - I am not just talking about the cultural ideal. I'm also iincludimg ideals taught by leaders. My point is that if we explicitly acknowledge that the leaders hold up ideals for us to strive for and we will never actually attain all of them in this life. Does that clarify what I mean? I'm also curious why you often express fear that my writing will alienate people from the gospel. That is not my intent & I've never received any feedback that would support your fear. However, I have received numerous comments, messages, & emails expressing gratitude & hope that there might still be a place for them among the saints. I wholeheartedly agree that the atonement is the key to our salvation in every area of life. This article was not explicitly about the atonement but about sharing shame research that I think would be helpful to Mormons. I

EmilyJanuary 10, 2017

Fabulous article. This echoes what I've been learning in therapy while trying to navigate betrayal trauma from my husband's addiction to pornography. There is so much shame surrounding the addiction and as I've studied it, I can see it more clearly for what it is, and how it also plays out in my life. I will use this article as a study reference for a long time to come. Thank you!!

Sammy TJanuary 9, 2017

Becky, you talk about how all we need is the Lord and He'll heal us and lift us. While He does do that, I think that shame is one of the things that actually blocks us from feeling His love. You say that He is the source of healing (which is true) and when you reads scriptures and such, you feel like your burdens are lifted, even if it's just "only momentarily." But you still struggle with depression. It's contradictory.. You are basically saying that if we understood pure doctrine and turned to the Lord, we would be healed, yet you still struggle even though you do turn to the Lord and understand His role in your life. I don't think the author is saying we should or have removed Christ from the equation when we talk about LDS ideals. In order to fully be able to progress and become the people He would have us become, I think we need both - we need to work through and heal shame, which then allows us to feel more overtly His love and presence AND we need to come to Him to change us into more refined and Christlike people. If we don't heal shame, we believe we aren't good enough for His love anyways and discount it, even if we are being obedient and striving to improve.

CarleneJanuary 9, 2017

I feel this need to appear righteous to others, whether felliw church members or family or non-Mormons we are taught to be examples, for can be very destructive. I know someone who divorced their spouse rather than deal with the public shame she knew would accompany his church trial and excommunication. She knew she could not stand tge public humiliation of the entire procedure. Why can't we find a way to handle these situations privately? Certainly our families matter more than this.

The Wayward SonJanuary 9, 2017

There is a wonderful article in the December 2016 Ensign called, "The Divine Power of Grace." I especially like the following: "...we must learn patience with ourselves and others in our current weaknesses and imperfections, and we must learn perseverance in the unavoidably gradual process of growth unto perfection. ... "Without diminishing the Lord’s injunction to keep the commandments or Moroni’s injunction to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, we should understand that grace is not dependent on our perfect compliance. If grace were dependent on our perfectly keeping the commandments or perfectly denying ourselves of all ungodliness, our persistent imperfection in mortality would forever preclude us from acquiring grace. Grace is intended, after all, to enable us to more perfectly keep the commandments and pursue a godlier walk, until we attain the full stature of Christ. "The Lord’s injunction to keep the commandments and Moroni’s injunction to deny ourselves of all ungodliness must be understood as doing these things the best we can. While our actions are important, more important are the intentions of our hearts." In addition, Elder Holland taught the following in the April 2016 General Conference: "With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed." Although, one does not get credit for trying when it comes to a temple recommend, we can prepare to receive one. Each of our journey's is very individualized. I have struggled with PTSD, GAD, Major Depressive Disorder, and addiction for over three decades. I have had to deal with many setbacks during that time. I learned that I had to be diligent even during my darkest times. Many times, be diligent was staying alive another day. Becky Littlefield, I loved what you said about sharing. Everyone in the church struggles with something. We all need support from our brothers and sisters of the Church. We have been told to. "Bear One Another's Burdens." It is not easy to know the burdens of others. So, how can we “bear one another’s burdens” when we don’t even know what they are? Also, how can we expect others to help us bear our own burdens if they do not know what our burdens are? We need to be more open with each other about our burdens. It took me 36 years to realize that my struggles and temptations are universal. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” https://willfulandwaywardson.com/bear-one-anothers-burdens/

SeanJanuary 9, 2017

Good article. I actually believe Church leaders in Salt Lake have done a good job lately of cheering us on rather than condemning/shaming. At the local level, this can vary widely. Very widely. The biggest problem is we have a difficult time differentiating from Church doctrine and Church culture. They are two very different things. I remember about 10 years ago living in a ward where in the space of two months, two respected men in our ward were excommunicated. One for committing a felony (financial fraud) and the other for committing adultery. After a year in federal prison, the felon was welcomed back with open arms. But during that year and beyond, the other gentleman, who happened to be my home teaching companion prior to being excommunicated, was ignored. People didn't know how to deal with it. People classified one sin as being greater than the other when the Lord would not have done so. I believe the shame issues are less about leaders and more about perceptions, real or otherwise, that we as regular members have toward ourselves and others. We like to classify and rank much like the Nephites of old did. And it's a really bad thing for all involved. Wouldn't it be awesome if in Elder's Quorum one Sunday someone felt comfortable enough to talk about his addiction to pornography and help his fellow brethren understand and perhaps even inspire others in the room deal with their own addiction. We aren't there and it's because of Church culture not Church doctrine.

AnonymousJanuary 9, 2017

This meant so much to me, i wish this had been around when i struggled the most in the Young Women's program and felt like I had to compete for worthiness. Unlike a fellow commenter on this thread, I think that your words here will be a blessing to a lot of LDS members.

LynnJanuary 9, 2017

Thank you for the article. I do see a difference between shame and guilt and how not differentiating between the two could be troublesome. I am intrigued by something specific that you wrote and wonder if a different perspective might change the entire focus of this article: "One of my ideal identities is the desire to be viewed as a “good mother.” If I am not behaving as a “good mother” – if I’m being preoccupied with work, forgetting their doctor appointment, or losing my patience– my ideal identity is challenged and I am susceptible to feelings of shame." Rather than indicating that you want to BE a good mother, which I have no reason to question, you state that your identity is tied to being VIEWED as good mother. Looking outward to others for your identity can bring nothing but misery in the long run. A true understanding of the gospel teaches us that it is our Savior to whom we should look and lean on for strength. He alone has the ability to guide us safely through mortality, heal our hearts, and mold us into the person we were made to be. We are sufficiently warned that we should not trust in the arm of flesh.

Becky LittlefieldJanuary 9, 2017

As a follow up to my previous comment, I do want to say that I agree that we need to foster an environment where people feel safe to share their struggles and shortcomings. I think people are held hostage to the idea that they "must be perfect", so no one speaks out for fear of rejection. I personally have shared my struggles with depression and other challenges in church settings, and although there were certainly some people that "judged", it was actually healing and opened communication with others that were similarly struggling. I long for that kind of openness within the Church . . . where people realize it is ok to be human, it's ok to need a Savior and that we ALL do!

Becky LittlefieldJanuary 9, 2017

Once again, I am disappointed with how you've presented an article. In addressing and labeling the "LDS ideal" you have touched on the ever-present "cultural Mormonism", but have left out the fundamental "LDS ideal" which includes the atonement of Jesus Christ. Brene Brown is fantastic, and I have enjoyed her as well, but without an understanding of the Savior's grace, many people will still wallow in shame and guilt. We need to do a better job in the Church of declaring, describing, and understanding what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about. I have met members and leaders that unintentionally promote this damaging "LDS ideal" that you describe, but I think sometimes that "ideal" is put into our heads by Satan and his minions who have a way of misconstruing truth, and leaving the Savior out of things. I struggle with inadequacy and feelings of depression, but when I study TRUE doctrine, through the study of the Savior's teachings, I am always comforted . . . if only momentarily, with the plague of depression I struggle with. His doctrine is pure. His mercy and love are real. I think that is worth mentioning as well. Although well-intentioned, I think you are somewhat off-track and that some people will believe you, and think that what you are saying is truly the "LDS ideal". I believe it will further alienate people from the Gospel, which truly has the potential to lift and heal when properly understood. You have so many followers and the opportunity to reach so many people with your message. Please teach that what you are talking about is an "inaccurate" ideal. The Book of Mormon and messages from our Apostles are replete with messages about weakness and overcoming it through the Savior. It's not about having a picture-perfect, Ensign cover family . . . It's about learning to turn to the Proper Source for help, because the fact is, we all fall short, and it's ok. It's ok because there is a Plan in place to remedy our failings and shortcomings, no matter what it is we struggle with. That to me, is the most important message that people need to hear.

Kim EggintonJanuary 9, 2017

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr. Hanks, for writing such profound truth about this very important issue! It is especially difficult in the Mormon culture to separate discerning between good, bad, and gray choices and judging individuals. What you do is not who you ARE -- and none of us are perfect, folks. Not even close. And who you ARE is good. Who you ARE is LOVEABLE. Who you ARE is not shameful; you are a child of GOD. Everyone is! Shame on shame, if you will. Gotta love everyone, not judge them, including ourselves.

SDJanuary 9, 2017

Years ago, our tiny Branch listened to the gossip coming from an emotionally disturbed teenager (later recognized as disturbed)… The Young Women told the girls from one family…. “We can’t talk to you. We are RIGHTEOUS and you are not.” This went on for some time before the mystified parents knew why their daughters were beginning to leave the church. It is now a full generation later. They all found friends out of the church, married out of the church, and their children are out of the church. Yes, they have the responsibility to make right choices. BUT things like this change the course of people’s lives and changes history. Sometimes the hurt is so deep, it will leave God to be their judge.

SDJanuary 9, 2017

I was introducing myself to a new co-worker. She had just moved to our state from Utah and was not LDS. I asked her how she like living in Mormon country. I expected her to tell me her new neighbors brought them food and offered to help baby sit while they unpacked, etc. But…. She shocked me when she said, “My husband told his company he would never accept another assignment to Utah. The neighborhood children were not allowed to play with our children and told our children THEY were RIGHTEOUS and our children were not. Our neighbors would not talk to us because we were not their religion. It was awful living among Mormons.” That is a quote. I did not tell her I was LDS, at the moment. I think I told her later. Sadly, she was a very fine Christian and my have listened to the gospel if not for her terrible example of the church. This all happened within sight of one of our temples (location, I will not name).

M SmithJanuary 9, 2017

I really like this article and I have learned a lot from Brene Brown. Our idealist Mormon society makes us believe that all we have to do is come down to earth and make the correct choices--that it is just a matter of making good choices. It isn't. I have learned through Priesthood blessings that a particular child needed to come to this earth and experience very difficult things in order for him to learn what would be for his best and ultimate good. We need to be more loving, more helpful, more accepting and less judgmental.

MarieJanuary 9, 2017

Years ago I dated an LDS man who grew up in a household where physical violence was present and everyone was expected to perform in order to be praised and praiseworthy. He was hiding deeply wrong sexual behavior from his bishop and lying in order to attend the temple because he was so frightened of being publicly shamed by a church trial. Since that time, I have sincerely wondered what bishops could do to help those in such situations.

A Happy HubbyJanuary 9, 2017

Oh how I wish they would have guest speakers at general conference and would invite you to give a talk there on this subject! I don't feel I get practical advice such as this from conference. I see this needed SO much within the church - especially the sisters. Being that you have counseled many people, I am sure you have already seen what an emotional and spiritual heading following what you have described here. So many need to hear and internalize that they are GOOD deep inside. Shame erodes that feeling.

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