- A warning signal that is a loud wailing sound, such as is found on police vehicles or ambulances.
- Each of a number of women or winged creatures whose singing lured unwary sailors onto rocks.
A recent incident triggered a shame response in me that was almost crippling in its intensity. Tears, a sense of failure, and feeling of despair and hopelessness came back in a flash, startling me with the strength of the pull to collapse into a pit that I knew only too well.
As I worked to not be sucked into that dark vortex, two things happened: an Eagles song began playing “somebody’s going to emergency/somebody’s going to jail” and a DPS car drove by with its siren wailing.
I couldn’t get the word “siren” out of my head. I was struck by the nature of the police siren providing a warning for drivers to get out of the way, help was needed somewhere. Then I remembered the sirens in Greek mythology, calling to the fishermen with a sound so entrancing that they crashed their ships on the rocks trying to get to the beautiful, seductive beings.
How often had I, instead of heeding the siren warning to get out of the way at the first inklings of the shame spiral, given in and sunk into depression and self-loathing? Rather than heeding the alarm that I was about to head down the road to self-blame and despair, I had listened to a different siren.
The seductive siren I had listened to said to me “Why, of course that happened to you. After all, it is your fault, and besides you really aren’t worthy of good things. Come back to the darkness you know so well, we’ve missed you.” I had followed that sound to crash on the rocks of self-hatred, preferring to curl up in a little ball, not daring to believe that I was of value to anyone, especially God.
I was able to pull out of the shame spiral, with Scripture, prayer and good friends who spoke truth to me. I found myself on solid ground again, in a much shorter period of time than it used to take – progress! I was reminded of some things I’ve learned along the way and I share them with you, today.
I’ve made progress. I have learned how to confront the lies not being good enough, of being “less than” with the truth of God’s great love for me and power in me.
I’ve learned that it is appropriate to feel regret for making mistakes, but that making mistakes or errors in judgment are not moral indictments of who I am as a person, or an indicator of how loved or valuable I am. It is mature to make mistakes, make whatever corrections are appropriate, learn from them, and move on.
I’m learning to take responsibility for my actions only and not the rest of the world, not to take on shame that rightfully belongs to someone else. When people treat me badly, that is not my shame to bear. The shame belongs to them. I can only work on my behavior. I can’t make other people do what I think they should.
But more often, and more importantly, I am learning to listen to sirens of warning and not sirens of luring, so I am not sucked into feeling shame that is not mine to bear. Warnings keep us out of trouble if we let them.
“Among the problems with shame was that it in fact did not make you shorter or quieter or less visible. You just felt like you were.”
― J.R. Ward, Lover Enshrined