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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Morning Reflection: The Syllables of Shame

The Syllable of Shame.

The English language is a funny thing. The slightest change, and words mean very different things. ‘Message’ and ‘Massage’ have just one letter different between them, yet they mean profoundly different things.

‘Read’ and ‘Read’ both indicate the presence of the written word, but one is in the present, while the other in the past.

As we’ve often heard, ‘words mean things’, and they can change the entire outlook of your thoughts.

Because without language, we’d have nothing to compose our thoughts with. We’d be stuck in a world of emotions run riot, never being able to process anything from our past. Instinct would rule over intellect, and passion would run roughshod over preparation.

Language is the mechanism that propels us forward into our dreams, or keeps us locked in the pathways of our nightmares.

And the difference can be a subtle as a syllable.

I’m starting to think that the most powerful words in our shared English language are often just one syllable long. Love and Hate, Life and Death. Yet the ones I have been meditating over this week have been a little less momentous, and yet they may be more powerful in their ability to move us or hold us right where we stand.

There’s very little difference between ‘could’ and ‘should’.

And yet there’s all the difference in the world. As someone who struggles with feelings of shame, the word ‘should’ holds such power over me.

If you were to listen to the radio station inside of my head, you’d probably hear a thousand different songs, or feelings, all featuring the same word that pushes me down, and makes me feel less than I wish I could be.

I should be this, I should have done that, I should be different, and maybe less fat.

The second the word ‘should’ shows up in a sentence, there’s an immediate sense of judgment, and rarely is it kind or fair. In a world of infinite possibilities, we seem driven by our common desire to inscribe pathways into the future for ourselves and others around us as we load our future with the judgments of ‘should’.

Until we feel overwhelmed and overloaded, full of a sense of shame for the things we feel we haven’t done.

Yet if we change two letters for one, we change the whole meaning of any sentence that we think. By changing a ‘should’ to a ‘could’, suddenly we are freed from the magnitude of expectation, and instead step into a universe for of choice and possibility.

And we also free ourselves from the judgments of shame.

In the years of working with and helping people, I have found that when you can help someone free themselves from the burdens of expectation and shame, their lives will be changed in some unbelievable ways.

For in removing shame, we substitute hope. In removing expectation, we throw open the doorway to choice. In removing judgment, we instead embrace the realms of possibility.

And when you set someone free, you’ll always find wonder at just how high they soar.

Dr. Alan Barnes

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