Search This Blog

Friday, August 16, 2013

Guilt & Shame personified: a poem and commentary

"Shedding Shame," Katarina Silva 
image used with gratitude & permission of the artist,
copyright Katarina Silva, 2013
All rights reserved

Please visit Ms. Silva's website here to view more of her powerful work. 

Guest blogger and poet:
Kyndall Rae Renfro
with commentary by D. Ellis Phelps

Guilt, be slain, you false accuser,
ha-satan, retreat, you devil . . .
. . . or, might I show hospitality
to my enemy? Give welcome at the door?
What gift is hidden in your lurking
presence? None! None!
cries my wounded child, huddled in fear,
but, “Shh, shh, I will protect you from
our visitor, even as I feed him bread.”
I turn towards the intrusion,
I want you dead and gone!
But I look into your malevolent eyes instead
and wonder what you’ll teach me
as I refuse to cave under torment.
You were going to come in anyway;
might as well seat you at the table
where I can see and study
rather than be stabbed in the back.
Your lips curve in sinister smile,
but I have unnerved you, being so forward.
I will force you to speak clearly.
No sleepy whispers in black masks,
no sneaking in through bedroom window.
You will sit here in my lamp-lit rooms
and I will hear your case, unflinching.
In the inner folds of your long coat
there is a tiny but brilliant diamond.
I can tell by the way you finger the lining
of your gruff garment and by the stance
of your defensive posture that
though you’ve come to pillage and plunder,
you’ve got a prize of your own.
All the stealing intended to distract me
from noticing that what you are hiding
belongs to me. I recognize its glint.
Even through folds of fabric,
it lets off a shine–
it is the small and righteous truth,
searing as the sun, that shame
attempts to hide. It is the gift
of my own vulnerability; it is the treasure
of being who I am without any fear.
Friends: You do not have to bar the door or
wield a weapon; just out-trick the trickster, knowing,
Shame never visits your house
without a diamond in his trench coat.

               Kyndall Rae Renfro

A teacher once said (and I believe this), that guilt is a form of self-inflicted punishment that allows the “guilty” to continue some hurtful behavior (toward herself or another), that the feeling of guilt is a signal to cease that behavior and ask forgiveness (of the self or another).
I really struggled to grasp the meaning of this teaching. I learned, like you, that guilt is also a teacher and that I have much to learn from the experience of it.

After my current understanding of guilt as “permission to repeat hurtful behavior,” arrived, I made a vow to banish guilt from my life by amending my behavior. Yes, I had done some things to others for which I needed to ask their forgiveness, but most of the damage I had done (and sometimes continue to do), I did in the form of insidious self-destruction: Anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse, engagement in toxic relations and on and on and on. In my recovery, guilt is not welcome; only acknowledgement of a mistake made and a new intention to change the mistaken behavior. Over and over again. That is all.

             D. Ellis Phelps

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me something good...