The Soul of Shame, Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, Curt Thompson, MD
The opening pages make me hopeful that Dr Thompson will be providing helpful insight into this pervasive and destructive force called shame. Alas, I find this is not the case.
In the introduction to the book only negative aspects of shame are listed. He notes this, but somehow it’s not satisfying that we will end up with a balanced product.
What follows here are notes taken from the pages referenced.
P16 ‘living a more fully integrated life’ sounds like psychobabble jargon. What even is that really?
He states he doesn’t address how shame is a good thing. I wonder how this can be a balanced, i.e., integrated, approach, although he admits to a lack of space to address this all.
P17 Thompson tells us he often has a hard time believing the truth of the Bible.
He speaks of a God who would rather die than have anything come between us and Himself. That’s not accurate theology. It’s not why Jesus died.
P27 The book is beginning to drift into a feelings-based tome. He is forgetting that feelings are supposed to follow, not lead. The last two people he talked about were believing lies. This was their problem. The feelings are just symptomatic.
P34 He writes that instead of turning away in shame you need to turn toward it in vulnerability. I agree but for a different reason. Being vulnerable, i.e., being honest and open, is facing the lie that you need to turn away from. Then, instead of believing the lie you need to be believing the truth and doing the truth.
P76 He speaks of the problem that occurs when the proper response doesn’t arrive and lists a number of types of persons from whom this supposed correct response should come, but neglects to list God as a possible source for that response.
P83 Amazing! He has actually connected the person’s problem with believing a lie…
P84 …and immediately wraps it up and throws it away in psychology. I wonder if he knows that it is the truth will set you free. I wonder if he knows that, it is lies that the truth sets you free from.
P99 He say that, “Shame is the emotional feature out of which all that we call sin emerges”. No. He’s wrong. That is just backwards. Shame comes from sin, not sin from shame.
P101 He astutely quotes Michael Polanyi who points out that doubt is simply the transfer of trust to something else, but then fails to understand that Biblically Trust, Faith, Belief, are all the same thing and so this transfer of trust is just unbelief on Eve’s part. She has sinned the sin of unbelief in what God said. This is the source of her later shame.
P102 He confuses doubt with insufficient knowledge, which someone of his training really shouldn’t fail to see, but if he understood it this way his story wouldn’t work.
P104 He observes (correctly) that Eve is now motivated by her feelings, but fails to inform the reader that this is exactly the problem. We must live by the truth, not our feelings. We must keep them under our control and not have them control us. Then on
P106 he points out that the Biblical narrative does not care about the development of her emotional state. Exactly. That’s because our emotions and feelings are not the important aspect.
P108 He points out their eyes were opened and asks how this can be unless they were active in the process. Well, the English and more importantly, the Hebrew is passive. They were not active. Cp Luke 24:31. Someone who gets simple matters as this so wrong is not in a position to be giving advice.
P110 He states that God is not asking where they are as in geographically, but where they are in their thinking. Unfortunately, the Hebrew word used here does not mean what he is trying to make it mean. He is just wrong.
P111 The progression into shame he again has backwards.
P112 A minor point, but he poetically says the horse of shame has left the barn. In terms of the metaphor, this would mean the shame is gone. Again, the opposite is true. Shame is in full force, something the author knows, but didn’t catch that his metaphor says something else.
P113 He says that evil uses shame not just to get us to do wrong (but see note on P99) and then goes on to say that is exactly what is expressed in the Genesis account. He then goes on to state what he believes the purpose really is while giving no support at all.
P120 Another small point, but a silly mistake nonetheless. He states that vulnerability is what we are. No. We can be vulnerable. We cannot be vulnerability.
P124 He, like so many others, succumbs to the false notion that God trusts us. God does not trust us. No where in the Bible does it say God trusts us.
He says that in creating us God risked everything. That is simply wrong.
P135 he says that Jesus knew he needed to closely engage Satan in order to recognize when shame was in play. This is patently ridiculous.
P136 he speaks of Satan’s attempt to convince Jesus that he was not God’s son. Again, patently ridiculous.
P139 he discourages analyzing why you feel shame. This is also wrong because it short circuits the defusing of the cause of shame. It is wrong because the Scriptures say we should examine ourselves for sin, and the shame we have is caused by sin.
P141 He doesn’t realize that Jesus could scorne the shame because he Himself was sinless.
P151 he says that it is bad to say we only expect you to do your best and he goes on to say that no one can really do your best. What he fails to understand is that doing your best can be done in the context of all things considered or all things being equal. See note concerning page 163.
P163 He says that the right type of praise is praise for making a good effort. How is this really different from doing one’s best, which on page 151 he said was not a good thing?
P164 He says ‘perseverance’ is the equivalent of ‘praise for effort’. It most certainly is not. Perseverance is very frequently continuing on without praise.
I will stop with these few examples. Glance again at the number of times I’ve marking in bold print where the author is simply wrong, or worse, has the point backwards.
One of the positive aspects of the book is drawing attention to the fact of How deeply pervasive shame is. As to describing what happens when shame hits, he is spot on. As to the reasons for it and why certain things help, he shows insufficient understanding of shame from God’s perspective to be used as a source.
His book is rejected.