I just finished reading “Tattoos On The Heart”, a book written by Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who’s spent more than 20 years running a gang intervention program in Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. It’s a powerful book and it touched me deeply. It describes individual gang members and what’s made them who they are. Most have grown up with extreme neglect that includes abuse (both physical and emotional), poverty, abandonment and addictions. They know little about hope and even less about love. They plan their funerals instead of their futures and what they’re most intimate with is shame – deep, crippling, toxic shame. The kind of shame that says “you’re less than, unworthy, unlovable, a disgrace, a disappointment – the world would be a better place without you here”. Imagine carrying a burden such as this. It’s too much for most. So their bad behaviour becomes their calling card, the “vocabulary of their deep wounds”. They play out their lives based on the voices in their heads. And we judge them! We think they could or should do better, but could we? It’s a person like Gregory Boyle that is a true hero. He stands in awe of the burden these people carry. He sees the individual beneath the shame and his heart just wants to hold them. He knows we’re all more alike than different, and what we all want most is love. What happens when you love a burdened soul? You alter the course of their life and change who they. What about you? Can you love a soul that’s burdened? Can you see beneath the shame? What about your own shame? We all carry some. Can you stand in awe of the burdens you carry (or have carried)? Are you willing to let those burdens go?
There is no heavier burden to carry than shame. Do your best not to carry this load. Be loving and compassionate to those who do.