What is one thing that you have experienced that if it ever got posted on the internet might cause you to buy a one way ticket to the middle of nowhere?
If you’re like me you might have a number of things vying for the top spot on this list. And I can assure you if one of my worst private moments became a public spectacle I’d be on the first plane to wherever the internet doesn't work and social media can’t find me. And I know that I'm not alone. The truth is that I spend a large portion of my time talking to people about the things that keep them up at night or out of public eye. I’ve spent the last decade trying to create safe spaces for people to unburden themselves concerning these experiences.
But what would you do if you lived in a small town and there aren't any safe people around? You know the one I’m talking about, the one in Lifetime movies and mid-century short stories: quaint and quiet until the tension breaks when someone does something that someone else doesn't approve of. Then, before you know it there are side-ways glances and secret conversations spreading like the plague through social clubs and bible studies. These days social media and the internet at large seem to be the preferred locales for scandal and gossip. And nobody’s safe from Facebook. It’s the small town where everyone is a citizen even if you aren't on it.
But what if you were that person that did that thing? What if your decisions about what you do in public and when you do it became complicated math equations of avoidance and self-preservation? Sometimes it is not even scandalous, sometimes it is just an amoral failure that too many people saw. Sometimes it is not even a momentary lapse in judgement, it is just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless of how you or I got there, we all know the feeling when information about us gets out a head of us, and it feels plain terrible. It’s because of this feeling that we’d all prefer to be on the outside of the scandal vs the middle. We all want to read the retweet without being the retweet. It makes sense though. Secretly, we all know why we prefer to be the ones part of spreading gossip versus being the gossip: every scandal has the possibility to create enough commotion to distract others (and maybe ourselves) from our own shame.
There is this old video on the internet from a scene in a film depicting Jesus hanging out with his disciples. The speaking parts are all dubbed over turning Jesus into the nasally pithy priest confronting his followers about their sins. Peter disrespected his mother, Andrew said a bad word when he hit his finger with a hammer, and whatever Frank did was so bad Jesus couldn't repeat it because he is Jesus. You can watch the video at the bottom of this post, or view it here.
The point is that this perspective of Christ is impoverished and narrow. Depicting Christ as a frail moralist unconcerned with those who follow him misses the target all together. But what does this video have to do with shame? A lot actually. Many people that I talk to more or less think of Jesus in this way. Somehow they’ve come to believe that Christ is more or less a divine Santa Claus: watching them continuously, and keeping track of good and bad deeds but instead of presents or coal, their actions add up to riches or retribution in the life to come. This is a terrible way to think of Jesus and portrays him as the least safe person you’ve ever met since he knows everything you’ve ever done wrong and is constantly judging you for it.
Brandon completed his M.A in Counseling from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009. Since then he has worked in community mental health agencies and private counseling centers. Aside from serving as the Director for ICP he also has a private counseling practice. Brandon lives in Louisville with his wonderful wife and children.