For Shame!

Dear Henry,

I've been following Father Mike Schmitz's "Catechism in a Year" podcast on the Hallow app, and a few weeks ago, on day 96 (CCC 679), he read the doctrine related to final judgment. Father Mike mentioned that the entire story of our life will become, essentially, public knowledge. And I found myself struggling with this information quite a bit.

You see, I have a significant problem with shame. Most of the shame stems from being, until my early twenties, a product of my upbringing, and even now, I still feel the need to justify those years to imaginary people. I spend a lot of time dwelling on the parenting and social mistakes I made while learning to be something other than the small, vulgar person my parents raised me to be. And finally, I feel both shame and the need to justify my decision to imaginary people about my decision to cut off contact entirely with my drug-addled parents and those siblings who have embraced those same addictions and behaviors.

To be honest, it's rather time-consuming, my need to continually justify the actions of my past with imaginary people. But it wasn't until I heard CCC 679 that these imaginary conversations became too overwhelming, and I felt compelled to unpack this nonsense and deal with it.

First and foremost, I've been fussing over events that occurred more than thirty years ago and were no more severe than the usual promiscuity and irresponsibility of someone raised in the highly sexualized and violent environment of addicts. Fortunately, I didn't have any of the addictions (besides cigarettes) or theft problems that are generally seen in that peer group. In fact, I dodged quite a bit and am really fortunate. Upbringings like mine are why there are so many women in prison, so many women working in the sex industry, and so many women buried in unmarked graves in the woods. That I didn't become one of those statistics is only by the grace of God. 

But I feel so stupid for not recognizing the path I was placed on earlier than I did. I'm embarrassed by how long it took me to figure it out. I'm horrified by how many problems I handled badly and for the people I've hurt along the way.

It took some soul-searching, but I finally realized that most of my issues weren't necessarily my past sins (which have long since been taken to confession). But rather, my issues were all of the justification arguments I was having with imaginary people and the fear that someday I would need to explain my actions again and potentially face the scorn and derision of others, and this is not shame.

This is pride.

But then, when you think about it. Shame and pride are very nearly the same thing.

I'm beginning to see social media's influence here. Social media has demonstrated more than once how people have no problem berating you for sins long repented of, and the internet has a large archive of all past embarrassments.  

Another peculiar thing I've noticed is the culture - most obviously on social media but also in many recently released fiction, movies, television, and video games. The levels of acceptable drug and alcohol consumption, the high-intensity sexual content, and extreme violence are very reminiscent of my early years and are cringe-worthy. Not to mention triggering. I've been thinking long and hard about my future social media activity and what that's going to look like.

My heart twinges for all of the young content creators who have bought into the belief that nudity, drug use, and violence are worth the personal costs. I feel like many will be, years from now, cringing in shame about their actions, and because of  "the algorithm," they will be reminded of those actions every time they log on.

And to have that kind of permanence of past mistakes really is a shame.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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