It's a Crying Shame: Part 3

It’s a Crying Shame: Part 1 | Part 2

Shame and guilt are not the same thing.  Brene Brown says that guilt is about our behavior, “I’ve done wrong,” whereas shame is about who we are, “I am wrong.”  This quote from her TED Talk on Shame is powerful.

How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’? How many of you would say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake. There’s a huge difference between shame and guilt.

We have to ask ourselves what we truly believe.  Am I a mistake? Is it a mistake that I am my child’s mother? Did God turn his head when our referral was sent, and somehow we ended up with a child that was not meant to be ours?  Or, did we make a terrible mistake when we accepted this referral?  Or how about this one, “Is this my punishment for nagging my husband to adopt this child?”

I personally don’t believe we’re that powerful. Did Russ and I choose the children I gave birth to? No, we didn’t have the ability to determine the genders, personalities, or appearances of our children.  We had three with blue eyes, and four with brown, big babies, small babies, easy ones and fussy ones.  As they are growing, we have introverts, extroverts, a scientist, artist, writer, doctor, an engineer, creative mind, and musicians, – and they were all created by God.  Yes, I carried them and they are a beautiful blend of Russ and me, but they were fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord and Creator of all.

Likewise, I don’t believe we chose the children that came to our family through adoption.  Sure, we got referrals for Eby and Little Man, but they were not random.  The boys came into the orphanage just as our paperwork was completed.  Other families ahead of us requested girls, so when our application reached the top of the stack, our little boys were on the top of their stack and they were matched with us.

Our girls, who were waiting children, literally came to us.  We were Dimples’ sponsors and later we learned it was possible to adopt her.  Then we traveled to the Ethiopian orphanage where another sweet girl stayed by my side as we played with the children.  I could not forget her; her image stayed with me for months after returning home.  The Holy Spirit was burning Bee into my heart.

God knew that four of my children would be born to their Ethiopian mothers and later I would have the honor of becoming their mother too.

You are not a mistake. You are not the wrong parent for your child.  Will you need help? Yes.  Will you need professional help? Quite possibly. Will you need treatment for your child outside of your home?  I hope not, but we’re a living example that it happens despite our best efforts.  Does that mean you weren’t meant to be your child’s parent. No.

I could write an entire post on disruption, and I touched on it at Refresh.  This post is already long enough, so let me just say, it happens, it is painful, nobody expects it, and sometimes it is necessary.  Does that mean you made a terrible mistake – that you were the wrong parent for your child for that time?  I honestly don’t think so.  God used you as He chose in the life of the child, and you made a way for your child to his new family. I’m sure it was horribly painful and I’m sorry you had to live through it.

A pastor I know likes to say, “God draws straight with crooked lines.”  Sit with that for a little while.

God knew. God chose. He is good.  He is loving. We put our trust in Him, watching and waiting for His perfect will to be accomplished. Our hope does not put us to shame.

It bears repeating,

…Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.    Romans 5: 3-5

Lisa

 

 

 

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

27 Comments

  1. maggie k
    February 15, 2013

    Wow – this really hits close to home. I had commentd to one of your earlier posts about my guilt about my failure to stop my kiddos "bad" behaviour. But along with that I have absolutely felt that I was the wrong mama for them. Somebody else would know better how to handle their behaviour. Or even prevent it from happening. That other mama would have more patience and more gentle words than I do. Therefeore, the girls would be happier in another family, etc. When it gets really bad – that is what I feel. But most of the time I feel so lucky to be their mama and know that God has placed them with my husband and I with a purpose. Thanks for reminding me that is true and to focus on that when the tough times come..

    Reply
  2. Debi
    February 15, 2013

    Thank you. Tears are streaming as I am overwhelmed by the kind
    faithfulness of our God. He knew the question swirling in my head and he lovingly answered through you. Thanks for being available to be an extension of His heart. I so needed this!

    Reply
  3. Katie Patel
    February 15, 2013

    Wow. Food for my soul today….Glory to God!!

    Reply
  4. Debbie
    February 15, 2013

    Wow. This is very powerful. God does not make mistakes. Amen!

    Reply
  5. Beth
    February 15, 2013

    Good blog the only part I wish wasn't in there was; "Is this my punishment for nagging my husband to adopt this child?” People already have the idea that it is the womans idea and not the mans. I get it all the time and It is not true. We both decided to take this journey.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 15, 2013

      Thanks for the feedback, Beth. That is the point I was trying to make. We cast about trying to find a reason for our suffering, we doubt ourselves and let shame wash over us. I hope I was making the point that God is the one who is in control – not us, not our husbands, but the sovereign Lord of all. I'll think about how I might be able to rephrase that to make my point more clear. I would add, however, that I believe it is more common for the woman to initiate an adoption than the man, and I do think some women blame themselves when it is difficult. I would love to hear from other people on this.

      Reply
      1. Beth
        February 15, 2013

        I'm glad you welcome comments.
        I went to lunch not long ago with a friend who said, "what does your husband think?" As if she felt bad for him for ME dragging him through some journey that he didn't want to be on. I am not offended easily but I have heard it so many times. My poor husband….Your blog made me feel like you had begged him and now regretted it. That could be true for some but it gives the reader that thought that men don't have control.
        Thanks again for writing this and being brave enough to put it out there for us all to see and comment on. I look forward to reading more of your writings.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 15, 2013

          Thanks, Beth. I didn't' beg Russ to adopt, but I'll fully admit that I came to him with the idea; he wouldn't have come up with it on his own. In many ways i think that is natural – I'm the mother, the nurturer. When we were in the years of giving birth to our children, I was often the one who said, "Maybe we should have another baby. Wouldn't another baby be great?" Russ and I are fully in this together – in fact, it is imperative that couples cling together and not place blame when life is hard.

          Reply
  6. SMORE STORIES
    February 15, 2013

    Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing your journey in this difficult season of parenting. God has and continues to use you and Russ to speak love, compassion, empathy, humility, grace and forgiveness into adoption.

    As an adoptee I grew up into an adult constantly feeling shame which later emerged into my parenting with both my birth and adopted children. How the enemy likes to make us feel that we are not good enough for our kids, when the God of the universe made no accident to place them into our lives for His glorious plan.

    I continue to pray for your whole family and Dimples healing journey. I really believe that God is going to use this in her life to help other's one day in their own journey.

    I will be looking forward to giving you a hug in person! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Deborah
    February 15, 2013

    You know, from the number of times I comment, that your blog encourages me and builds me up. However, I believe one thing is missing from this post and because it is this one is painful for me. God's plan MAY just require us to be a parent to a wounded child "for now" rather than "forever". I believe to the very core of my being that I was (1) DESTINED BY GOD to be the mother of the youngest child in the sib group of 3 we adopted, (2) DESTINED BY GOD to be the vessel that got the middle child of the sib group of 3 to her forever family – because the state in its' infinite wisdom would NEVER have seperated these children who desperately needed to seperate in order to heal individually, (3) DESTINED BY GOD to suffer as the mother of the oldest child of the sib group of 3….. who HATES everything about me and being in my family simply because I am not his bio-mom. God didn't make a mistake in placing these children with us, not because I am the right mother for all 3 children, but because I was strong enough to do what needed to be done in the TRUE BEST INTEREST of the children. Just my humble opinion.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 15, 2013

      Deborah, I hope that was what I was saying when I mentioned disruption – I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough. I just edited the post to express my thoughts more clearly. Please let me know if that helps. I totally agree with what you have written above. One of my dearest friends went through a disruption with her first adoption and it was incredibly painful. Yet, I still believe she was meant to adopt those children, and God knew in advance she would be their mother for only a short time. It's painful, and yet it was not a mistake she and her husband adopted them. He had a purpose and plan. Please let me know if I'm getting this right.

      Reply
      1. Deborah
        February 15, 2013

        I do better understand your intention in your edited words – thank you for the clarification. Don't ever feel you have to edit a post based on my feelings (or anyone elses!)…… I only wanted to comment with the perspective of someone who has lived through a disruption that, while painful, disruption has turned out to be the best for all 3 children. I think you and I agree – that sometimes God's plan looks nothing like ours – but His is ALWAYS RIGHT. Thanks for your email and reply.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 15, 2013

          Yes, that is what I was trying to say — and I thought I had — but in looking back I can see how it didn't sound that way. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I edited my post because the last thing I would ever want to do is cause more pain for a family who has gone through a disruption. We must refuse to judge one another and come together to support each other in our service to the fatherless.

          Reply
          1. Rachelle
            February 20, 2013

            I want to thank both of you, Lisa and Deborah, for having this discussion. We had our first adoption, a sib group of 3 from state foster care, that very sadly ended in disruption. That was over a year ago and I still wrestle with questions of where we went wrong(Did we hear God wrong, Are we being punished, Did we make a mistake by disrupting? it goes on and on). It’s SO hard, as the mama, not to feel like I AM a failure and live in a sense of shame. I know God has a purpose in all of this I just don’t think I will ever fully realize what the purpose is. I still don’t know if we did the right thing but we did the best we could with the knowledge we had.

  8. Karen
    February 15, 2013

    I used to think I was the wrong mother for T, because Lord knows, I make mistakes and don't always have the best days, and he has been such a challenge and I was not gifted with an overflowing reserve of patience. But in all my "woe is me" times, I always come back to this: my woes are nothing compared to his. And while I sit here wondering how I was chosen for this child, somewhere in Ethiopia there is a mother who is grieving for the son who is not with her. I think about families who teach their grieving, traumatized, attachment-challenged children that their behavior is "sinful" and they need to be punished for their sins.

    So yes, now I understand that my son — my difficult, challenging, stubborn, angry, remarkable, kind, empathetic, talented, loving son could have ended up in one of those families, and no, it is not a mistake that I am his mother. I am a work in progress, but I am not a mistake. We'll figure it out and we'll make it work, even if I do sometimes lose my way.

    Reply
  9. urbanservant
    February 15, 2013

    Thanks Lisa – strong words in season for our family.
    Love you.
    d

    Reply
  10. Alyssa
    February 15, 2013

    My husband and I were talking about this at lunch– the pressure I feel to give time to all my children, the guilt I struggle with when I don't live up to my ideals. He reminded me that I am the best mom to the little boy we adopted and we are the best family for him, even though I have to spread my time to the others. That God knew and planned our family and that He will work it all to good.
    I am really going to think about Shame and how that pays a part in the anxieties I feel… you defined it really well. I talked to my husband about how I feel like a bad mom, a failure over something as simple as how dirty my bathroom floor is or when we can't find a library book, I need to believe the truth and see that even if I have failed in my actions (and many times I haven't, I just have unrealistic expectations) that does not reflect on my value as a person.

    Reply
  11. Mamma Sass
    February 15, 2013

    Again, you have struck so close to home for a fwe years now I keep doubting our adoption – not that I don't love our son – I do, but maybe I am the wrong mother to mother him. I keep thinking we are the wrong family to have him in our home – maybe another family would be better for him – can help him heal. We have made mistakes – not knowing what to do – and so again we think if we were the right parents we would not have made those mistakes. But in those small quiet moments a whisper comes to mind, that we WERE directed by God. Too many miracles and "coincedences" happened. There were so many times God could have let nature take its course and our son would not have been with us. We counted them blessings then, so why am I doubting now? Because I see the pain and pray that I can alleviate it. But I need to continue to have hope in God. These posts are so inspired – they come to me at a time I need them the most. If you had written them a month ago – they wouldn't have meant as mush as they are right not. Thank you. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  12. SleepyKnitter
    February 15, 2013

    Wow! Wow, I needed that, the difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a mistake.” I do worry about whether I am the wrong parent for these children, and I know my husband feels that he is the wrong parent for them, and we do feel at times like we ARE the mistakes in this situation, but it is helpful to me to see these ideas written in words. I do worry that I pushed my husband into each of our four adoptions, especially the fourth one that became such a heartache to us — he was just going to let it go, but I knew we had just hours left in which to make the decision to enter this girl’s life, and I pushed him to do it against his better judgement, and then everything fell apart. Such heartache for all of us! I could just sit and cry all day over the agony it has all been, but we are working hard at moving forward. Yes, I think we were the family we needed to be *at that time* for our oldest daughter whose adoption we had to disrupt. We were not her forever family. I hate saying that, knowing how tenderly some of my adoptive parent friends hold the idea of forever family. But we were not her forever family, and her true forever family, with whom she now lives as a beloved daughter, could not have adopted her at all if we hadn’t adopted her first. They could not have done it. But because we did the international adopting, they are able to do the domestic adopting now that this precious girl is here. I have to remind myself of that over and over.

    Thank you for these three posts. I will have to go back and read through all three of them (and all the comments) again. We are all in this together, even if we have differing opinions or experiences. Thank you for posting!

    Praying for you and your family! You have been on my regular prayer list for a long time.

    Reply
  13. SleepyKnitter
    February 15, 2013

    Another thought — I went on to the next blog, still thinking about the difference in shame and guilt, and began to wonder if in the end it matters that there is a difference between guilt and shame? In the end, aren’t I still at the core of the problem if I have pushed my husband into adoption (or whatever a person might be feeling guilty over)? If I pushed for the adoption without knowing 100% for sure that it was God’s will, and now the child is bitterly unhappy in my home, aren’t I still at the core of the problem, whether I’m feeling guilt or shame?

    Reply
    1. amy
      February 17, 2013

      Let's say, for arguments sake, it wasn't God's will and you screwed up. Still, that is a MISTAKE (a big one, but not unknown – ex: Abraham and Hagar). If you dwell in shame you continue to be a source of problem rather than solution. Shame is not from God, but Holy Guilt is.
      I, being well familiar with shame and guilt as described above, think there is a clear and distinct difference. I do make mistakes – sometimes even mistakes that have consequences that could tear my family apart or hurt my children forever BUT I AM NOT A MISTAKE.
      Shame says you are broken, disgusting, useless, a sorrow to others, unhelpful, an idiot, a MISTAKE. Shame says you should kill yourself because you only bring sorrow and are worthless (at its worst). Guilt is a healthy response to a mistake you made. We all make mistakes, we all are fallen, even terrible mistakes. But if you feel SHAME in response to a mistake you made instead of helping the situation it often makes it worse because instead of accepting responsibility and trying to find ways to make it better or not do it again, shame focuses you inward and really makes you beat at yourself so you can't be well for anyone else. If you feel GUILT you can acknowledge you made a mistake and you can learn from your mistake and you can be outward focused and try to forgive yourself and work on solutions (rather then work on more ways to torture yourself).

      Also, as a side note – I believe we all do make big and little mistakes but that God in His loving kindness helps to repair and create good out of what was meant for evil (whether we meant it for evil or not).

      Reply
      1. SleepyKnitter
        February 20, 2013

        thank you, Amy! Good, helpful thoughts. I’m still struggling with this a bit, but your answer made sense to me.

        Reply
  14. Cindy
    February 17, 2013

    This is such a Blessing to read and I am soooooo encouraged by this post. The truth is I trusted God in the beginning of our adoptions and now I'll choose to trust Him with the ending results.

    Reply
  15. Erin
    February 18, 2013

    Thank you. There is so much pain involved in an adoption disruption without adding the negative judgments of those who haven't been there. It took me some time to come to peace with a failed adoption attempt, to realize that it was only a failure in that it didn't work out as we intended. We helped a little boy with a lot of special needs (many undiagnosed before he came to us) make great developmental progress and transition to a home where he is flourishing. I wrote about some of my confusion and struggle to understand God's will in the situation here: http://burckeri.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/reflecti

    I often feel like a loser in the adoption world, so I appreciate your reassurance and acceptance.

    Reply
    1. burckeri
      February 23, 2013

      I re-read the post I linked to and realized it was only half of the story I wanted to share. It does talk about my struggle with understanding God's will, but it doesn't represent my current understanding of why our adoption attempt didn't work. I think I came to a more mature understanding of it and wrote about it here: http://burckeri.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/more-tho

      Reply
  16. elizabeth
    March 11, 2013

    Oh, this one is hard to read through the tears. Earlier today the Lord first led me to your blog-I read "My Learning Curve" and prayed ALL day for Him to give me one thing to like (it's been a LONG 10 year struggle). A few hours ago–He gave me something. And I told my child, it was met with a beaming smile and something inside me began to heal. Now I find this post, and I am just overwhelmed at His great love and grace poured out on me to show me His truth in your words–thank you for vulnerably letting Him use you–He blessed me richly through you today.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 11, 2013

      You have encouraged me today, Elizabeth. Thank you.

      Reply

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