We wait for the bus every morning along the outer edge of my neighbor’s garden. There’s a bend in the road, and a tiny, smooth curb where we stand and watch the world go by. The world being limited to other children walking to school, a stray cat, and whichever adults are up and at ‘em. Today, the world was reduced to our seventy year old neighbor standing in the garden in his underpants. Not shorts, not pajamas, but underpants. It was raining, there was fabric clingage, and I wanted to wash my eyeballs out with hot sauce.
God bless him. He felt no shame.
When we first moved here, we attended a few sessions of cross-cultural training. Having lived and traveled overseas before, we were well aware of this European penchant for no-shame nudity (or semi-nudity as it were). It’s cultural, I get that. I was surprised to learn that shame shows up elsewhere among the Swiss. It shows up in their fear of failure. They are careful, cautious, and deeply suspicious of change. Risk is not programmed into their DNA, as it is with most Americans. Risk can lead to failure which inevitably leads to shame.
It doesn’t matter where we come from or how we feel about standing outside in our skivvies. It doesn’t matter if we take risks or hate risks. Shame shows up. It is the party crasher that enters under the guise of having a good time, and then gets crazy, smashes your coffee table to bits, and refuses to leave. Grace, on the other hand, waits patiently for an invitation. And once invited in, stays for a while and helps you clean up the mess that shame left in it’s wake.
Open the door wide, invite grace in, and watch shame escape out the bathroom window.