Shame torments. Haven’t we all felt it to one degree or another? It’s excruciating. So, I composed a simple strategy against shame which has greatly encouraged my daughter, Hannah and me.
Our children with autism grow up hearing about their “disability,” usually have some class time separated from their neurotypical peers, and brave various therapies. They suffer from difficulties with communication, making friends, and numerous other areas also. I believe this can cause an underlying message of shame to develop in their hearts and minds.
We as parents suffer from shame as well. Brene Brown has spent her career researching vulnerability and shame. In her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” she stated, “Society views womanhood and motherhood as inextricably bound; therefore, our value as women is often determined by where we are in relation to our roles as mothers…” (Brown 86).
As the parent of a child with autism, do you feel you have been misjudged and devalued?
Me too. It hurts…bad. I believe that most of the time we’re judged as being too soft on our children with autism. People think we should “discipline” them more or demand they be more accountable or do more on their own.
The Bravest People
However, people who judge don’t know what they don’t know. Children and adults with autism are the most disciplined, hardest working, and bravest people I know.
As soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning, they start working on social interaction and communication in a world that speaks a different language. They may use English, but what means one thing to a neuro-typical person, may mean something completely different to a person with autism.
How would we feel if we suddenly found ourselves on a sidewalk in downtown Tokyo where they don’t understand our language and we don’t know theirs; yet, we are required to communicate to get help? We’d be terrified! Our children feel that terror too; yet, they continue to work hard every moment of every day to communicate, socialize, and fit in.
I believe our children are constantly bombarded with shame’s message, “You’re not enough. Try harder.” As parents, we are bombarded with this message also.
Strategy Against Shame
My strategy against shame is to take time every day to replace shame’s message with God’s message. Let’s remind our children and ourselves:
- Who we are: We are God’s masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10). God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, formed and fashioned us with great care (see Psalm 139:14).
- Our value comes from The Master Artist Who created us: He never changes, so neither does our value (see Numbers 23:19)!
- We are greatly loved: God’s love for us never ends (see Jeremiah. 31:3). His love never fails (see 1 Corinthians 13:8). Jesus is with us. He saves us and rejoices over us. He also quiets us with His love (see Zephaniah 3:17). God is glad He created you!
- Pray with your children: Let them hear you thank God for them and the blessing that they are.
I remind Hannah and myself of this message at bedtime so we sleep with it in mind. I also remind us in the morning that we take Jesus with us wherever we go.
This strategy may sound incredibly simple. Well, that’s because it is. What does it take to defeat a lie? The truth. And the truth is: we are greatly loved!