It still amazes me how much shame was programmed into me as a young Christian.
I just sent a text to a pastor friend of mine with a “naughty word” in it and I cringed. I know God couldn’t care less about these words, but that cringe made me pause. It was a deep-seated belief that I was in trouble with God.
I remember hearing in high school that saying “God!” in anger — or worse “Goddammit!” — was “taking the Lord’s name in vein.” I was told that I was calling on God, but actually not wanting Him to be there. One friend went as far to tell me that it was “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” — the unpardonable sin (Luke 12:10)
And where did I learn that God would be angry at me for my bad words? As a parent of 3, I know all too well the temptation to correct behavior through shame. So then throw in an all powerful God that sees EVERYTHING you do and even sent his son to DIE for you because of all the things you did … shit, what a mind fuck.
So it’s no wonder I felt the weight of shame for other sinful behavior. Take masturbation. My high school friends joked that all you had to do was masturbate without thinking “lustful thoughts”. But this still seemed too risky — some self-pleasure at the risk of eternal damnation? No thanks.
Rated R movie? Strangely, violence wasn’t a big deal … but any time a boob got flashed? I just knew God was angry with me. I felt like a cowering dog, knowing full well the punishment that was coming.
What’s also troubling is how this shame seeped into adulthood. Now that I was an adult, could I say those bad words now? What about rated R movies? I was above the “restricted age”, right?
What about masturbation? Could I do it now that I was married? Some friends told me I still couldn’t — any time I masturbated instead of had intercourse, I was withholding sex from my wife.
It’s taken me years to begin to unravel all this shit. And yet, despite my best efforts to rid myself of faulty theology, I still cringe when I send a bad word in a text message. I’m worried I’ll never be able to shake that inner-critic. But fuck if I’m going to pass it along to my kids.
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