by Refuge intern, Christine Gilbert
Today’s generation lives in a society that promotes individuality. Unlike previous generations who strove to follow in the family business or honor their family name, today we are told to “be ourselves” no matter the cost. But how do we actually define “ourselves”? We no longer believe age equals wisdom, we aren’t impressed by those who have done great things. Yet in these efforts to break away from tradition and the bounds of our father’s generation, we have failed to notice the new holders of affection. They are our peers. The role that our peers play in our lives has shifted. No longer are those who surround us simply fellow humans to experience life with. They have become our validators. Those who direct our actions, thoughts, and even our desires. We are no longer concerned with the approval of our elders—the way we dress, the music we listen to, the career we choose—but instead, we care deeply about what our peers think concerning these things.
Disobeying elders left previous generations feeling guilty, but our allegiance to our peers creates a deeper sentiment within us—shame. In his book, “The Wounded Healer,” Henri Nouwen discusses a shift from a guilt-based culture to a shame-based culture. This culture is a culture in which not conforming to our peers (whatever conforming may look like to us) sends us spiraling down in a sea of shame. “What is wrong with me?” “Why can’t I be more like them?” Questions that steal from us the opportunity to truly “be ourselves.” Could it be that “ourselves” is actually more about being someone else? And is it worth it?
If any of this resonates with your experience, or if you struggle with the burden of living in a shame-based culture, the counselors at The Refuge Center would love to walk beside you in your journey. For more information, please visit us at www.therefugecenter.org or call us at 615.591.5262.
Reference: “The Wounded Healer” Henri Nouwen