I have been catching up on the British TV series Downton Abbey, which follows the lives of a wealthy English family and their various servants in the early twentieth century. Like with any well told story I have become invested in the characters and very much care for their well being. I have rejoiced and mourned my way into the fourth season. There were some beautiful reconciliations that happened at the end of season three that thrilled me, just before the untimely death of a dear main character. But worse than that to me was the horrible and violent rape of the sweetest, kindest, most trusting of the lady’s maids by someone she though of as a harmless and fun-loving new friend. I found it far more heartbreaking than any of the deaths or other tragedies. Just as heartbreaking was seeing her overwhelming shame and how it made her feel unworthy of the love of her coworkers, the caring family that employed her, and her dear husband. In a time when she was most deeply hurt and in the most need of the healing power of love, she determinedly walled herself off, causing more hurt around her in addition to sealing in her own hurt. I don’t blame her. Shame is powerful. But seeing the intense evil it brought in keeping her wounds open and causing new wounds in those who loved her is agonizing. I wish I could step into the story and show her that she is loved unconditionally, that no one could love her less because of what happened, and that the receiving and allowing of unconditional love is the key to her healing and recovery. She was fortunate to be surrounded by people who loved her. Not everyone is, and it be very challenging to find people we can be safe with.
But I don’t blame her. I am sad because I myself know the power of shame. Many times it has kept me from letting others love me. But I have been on a quest toward brave vulnerability toward those who have proved themselves safe and loving.
If you have endured anything like this, I want you to know that your value is not related to what you have experienced. Your trusting, believing the best in others, loving and risking, is part of what makes you beautiful, not weak or simple. Please don’t listen to shame. It’s scary to be vulnerable and let others love you again after something horrible like this, but your very life depends on it. Not always your physical life, but definitely your soul and spirit.
I am reminded of what Dumbledore was always telling Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, that there were things much much worse than death. Living unloved because shame has told you are not worthy, is one of those things. Be brave. Let yourself be loved.