Friday, December 12, 2014

Guilt & Shame

It's important to be real. There are many people in this world I admire, but by the time I get around to knowing who they are, they've learned a ton of life lessons I do not even know about yet. This can make it appear that their lives are nothing but a huge piece of cake when they share their success stories from podiums and in books.

But we are all human, and we all go through hard times. Even when things are getting better (and things are getting better for me), life can still hurt. Jesse's Saperstein's book, mentioned in yesterday's post, starkly reminded me of this fact. He writes of the many people who found him to be strange. And how in looking back, he understood why they felt that way. 

As I read, I remembered the many similar situations in my past. My behavior hurt people, and there's a certain amount of embarrassment attached to every memory.

So, I want to make myself a little vulnerable to you right now. I want to share that I carry a large amount of guilt and shame in my heart most of the time. It was not my fault to be born autistic. And no one else is to blame for this, either, but there are so many people in my life who have been angry with me, disappointed in me, ashamed of me, and afraid of me that I would be a liar if I didn't say these realizations do not hurt. A lot. They are, indeed sometimes (like today), excruciatingly painful.

Yet the only reason why I hurt is because of my healing. I am now acutely aware of how my actions and impulsiveness affected other people around me. This was not the case only a few years ago. Even then, I had absolutely no idea. So now I live with the opportunity to think in terms of gray rather than in black and white. Meaning I have to learn how to be grateful for my healing, while at the same time grieve over what was lost because of a disorder. 

Not that I haven't grieved already, but grief is not linear and in reality it's just a hard concept to understand. Grief is not an emotion. It's a conglomeration of (sometimes conflicting) emotions that simply show up whenever they want to appear. Even after years of dormancy.

There are just days when I hate autism. Or myself for having had it. A few months back, I tried to apologize to someone for my past behavior, but that person ran away from me. And then when I went back to my church because, well, it is my church, that individual quit going because of their fear of me. 

As a logical person, and as a healed person, it is easy to see society's perspective regarding their overall discomfort around individuals with autism. I actually understand it. 

On the other hand, as a Christian and as a human being, I find the lack of grace, understanding, and patience toward autistic people to be somewhat inexcusable. I'm not willing to say it's totally inexcusable because I am afraid of casting stones here, but it's just such a big stretch for me--you know--when I go to church and I see contempt towards "the least of these" over and over again. How can that be okay? How does this not make a person angry? How can I say it doesn't make me feel like the biggest reject of all time? 

Once upon a time, and for a very long time, my behavior was weird. But marginally so. I never broke the law. I was never lewd. I suffered from a persistent immaturity, and when the pain of a lifetime of rejection caught up with me, the anguish came out in a number of less than attractive ways. I didn't know how to share it or release it. And when I tried, it scared people.

We are the church. We need to work past our fears of those who are different because this is how healing begins. This is how we demonstrate the love of Jesus to one another. Let it begin in us. Let it begin now. 



  1. Dearest, most lovely gal,

    I have read blog after blog, account after account of Autism experiences both personally stated and otherwise, and I have never ever ever read such a perfect piece. Sincerely. It wrenched my heart to read this.
    As I read it, my 4 year old son with ASD had yet again, slammed a car into my 2 year old daughters head, and when she cries, he screams and cries and both were writhing on the floor. I now, am even further aware of the consequences of my behavior and response to such. I HAVE to choose affirmation over condemnation, in my body language and words... He is already acutely aware of having hurt her, and feeling remorse...I must be cautious to not worsen the situation. So instead of doing ABA Extinction, I went in and we all took deep breaths and sang a quiet songs. I've now done this 2 times in 7 minutes.
    Thank you for making me acutely aware of the painful consequences of such a unique story. I wrestle a great deal with changing my thoughts and words, but I believe God is going to do the miraculous in Hillel...and I don't want him ever to feel a burden or ashamed as he recalls life events. Its funny, I don't even explain to people he has Autism anymore, I just let him be him...if he's stimming harmlessly flapping in front of a brilliant light display, and folks stare, it no longer bothers me. I think once I refused to be ashamed or embarassed, life got exponentially better. God so graciously severed that generational curse and I can only hope it never reached my sweet boy.
    Thank you for sharing...always a delight.
    I can see miracles, as yourself, still need nurturing...and it breaks me to think this néed is unmet in the Body.

  2. Dear Jillian,

    I just want to know that I was both deeply moved and humbled by your comments to me. Since reading them, I have been trying to know what to say in return, but words truly fail me--even in writing. The fact that you are taking a different look at your son (even though it is plain that you loved him before commenting here) because of some difficulty in my life makes the pain worth it.

    I do want to say, however, that all of us despite our best intentions are going to fall short at times when we interact with other people, so I don't want to place any unnecessary guilt on anyone's shoulders by implying we must act perfectly around each other at all times. But if we all try to see each other with the eyes and heart of Christ, we might just do a little better by one another. That's pretty much all I'm asking for at this point in time.

    I have missed receiving nurturing during most seasons of my life. I'm still alive and breathing so I do pray for the Lord to meet this need in even this late stage of the game. I want to experience it so I can give what I've lacked to someone else who may have the same need. But if the Lord does not answer that particular prayer, I will be okay. He knows what is best for me.

    Again, thank you for a very gracious and loving response. God bless you and your family today and always.