The Tabernacle

Creating 'spaces' to experience the presence of God

Shaming Others doesn’t bring change

August 1st, 2019

I was reversing out from my parking spot. 

We all know how precious those things have become in our world of 7 billion people. 

I reversed out onto the middle of an empty road. As I did I noticed a car was already waiting for my parking spot. 

Just as I put my car into drive and began inching forward, the waiting car drove in front of me and pulled into the spot. 

Slamming on my brakes, I was shocked. 

As the driver pulled in, a jogger ran past them and yelled “You d____!” Shaking her fist and pointing at the driver as she did so.

Stunned at the 1,2,3 of unexpected events. I continued my turn of the steering wheel, clearing the middle of the road and drove off. 

Fear and shaming had just run that moment. If you ever doubt that much of life isn’t a emotional discourse, consider this event. 

Happens more than we like to admit. Our parking lots have become shaming fields. Our cars weapons. And driving an experience in dehumanisation. 

When did we ever get the idea that shame can drive the kind of change we all really want in our society? 

Shaming others never has produced change that is positive, because shame attacks our identity. 

When we confuse behaviour with identity we are on dangerous grounds. 

And this was the power of Jesus. He never lost sight of who we are despite our vulnerability and our behaviour. 

He knew to be human is to be vulnerable. He valued vulnerability not shamed it. 

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How to turn a nation?

June 19th, 2019

Sometimes to turn a nation we have to rebuild an altar to God. 

1 Kings 18 records a defining moment in the history of Israel. This moment was not just about a family, a community, a organisation being turned, but an entire nation!

What turned it? A person rebuilding of an altar to God. This was the great powwow between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. 

Both built altars. Only one saw the presence of God fall on it.

Altars are places that house anything you consult with before acting. Anything you check in with to get your identity, your values, your direction, your power from.

It has always been about altars, because our entire physiology was wired for worship. In that space, we draw meaning of life and for life. We are meaning making machines.

Turning a nation, turning the narrative of what gives us meaning, is found at the altar of what we worship.

In fact, future generations are depending upon us to come face to face right now with what we worship. 

How can we create a space for worship to God? What does building an altar look like? Is it really that big a deal for my nation?

These are key questions that over the years I have wrestled with.

Many years ago, when I first started to create a space for God in my life, I would wrestle, toss, think about all kinds of things, get up, sit down, walk around. Wrestless. 

Had no idea of what I was waiting for or doing. All I knew was that I had been pulled. Pulled to a space, a time and to Him.

I had no idea what that meant or would mean now nearly 20 years on.

So I learned to ask. I learned to ask what he wanted, what he saw, what he was thinking about, what was on his heart. I began the learning of connection, of worship, of building an altar to him in presence of other altars.

And I’m still learning today

During one of these such times, he took me to Isa 40:31. “Those that wait upon the Lord, will renew their strength. They will raise on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

My eyes fell to the word, wait. What an uncool word for one who loves immediacy, action, adventure and decision making!


I hate waiting. I hate waiting in Doctors waiting room. I hate waiting for the light to change on the road. Loathed it as a kid! Still mostly do.

But now, the word “wait” was beaming at me. 

“Wait on the Lord.” 

Hmm. Those words, but what on earth does that look like??

I flipped to the Hebrew Dictionary for this verse. “Wait” is the word qavah, And then my jaw dropped.

Means to “bind together by twisting.” Yep that’s exactly how it felt. Loads of twisting.. tossing.. moving around… 

And this began my journey of building a space, a worship to God. It was a tossing, turning, twisting thing. It was tangible. It was physical. His presence when it encountered me, caused a physical response of qavah!

We experience that all the time as we get build connection with friends and community. We sit in conversation and experience a twisting, turning, dancing as it where of subjects, nuances, themes. As words are exchanged, hearts are moving, twisting together

or not.

And this is the rhythm of relationship, of connecting, of building a space where I worship. 

And this is the turning. The turning of an individual heart, a family, a nation. It begins at the altar.

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How to respond to being shamed or mocked?

June 19th, 2019

Philip arrived ecstatically excited. Before he could talk about anything else, he burst out with the news of all news.

The news he had waited for his entire life. Infact the news his community and nation had waited for, for over 400 years.

He met his friend Nathanael with the sensational announcement, “We have found him… Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!”  (John 1:45)

Nathanael met Philip’s uncontained excitement with, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

What a wet blanket moment. Ever had one of those moments? 

Super excited at an idea for your business, the results of a test, a life changing revelation just had as you encountered God, a brilliant discovery in the hardware shop to solve a problem you’d been working on for a week… 

and it’s met with indifference, rejection, or even argument.

We’ve all had them and dare I say, all responded like this too. They provoke all kinds of emotions in us from shame to defensiveness to curiosity.

What do we do when we are shamed or mocked about something we’re excited about, convinced of and believe in?

We live in a culture that has changed. It’s a culture that most social scientists would agree is now a shamed based culture. Meaning that the behaviours and belief that people are living and wrestling with are around shame.

Shame is anything that says we are less than, that we are not … enough in.” Shame is an emotion and experience that re identifies us. It rumbles with our identity.

Philip’s response gives us a key, a way home through such moments.

He replied, “Come and see.” (John 1:46) What!!! What kind of response is that? What about being right and putting Nathanael in his place?!!

Philip chose to not stumble over Nathanael’s response. He chose not to be offended or shame Nathanael. 

Instead Philip chose curiosity. 

Curiosity is powerful! It invites us away from what we think or believe may be going on, into a space to learn more. 

Curiosity is about connection and choosing connection over and above opinion. 

This is also the power of honor. Philip honored Nathanael’s position and journey. He could see the person above the behaviour. 

When Nathanael did encounter Jesus, Jesus continued his encounter with honour. He called out the gold in him, “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit.” (John 1:47) 

No shame can stand when honor comes.

Jesus saw the person, and spoke to Nathanael’s identity. It changed the game, changed the narrative and changed Nathanael’s destiny.

Next time try curiosity. Try honouring the person above the behaviour. Gosh it can be hard but we can do hard things! This is really Living Courage! 


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How to break out of discouraging, negative atmospheres

May 24th, 2019
Discouragement, negativity and slander has been around and very present in the atmosphere these past few weeks.


The devil has no problem slandering us and God! He loves to yank on lies like you are not important after all who do you think you are, what you are doing with God is not important.

Disrespect has always been a key signature of his ways.

Earlier this week I was getting annoyed with this stinky atmosphere. It is an atmosphere that does not reflect heaven’s.

So I sat down with Father God and asked him for the key to shut this up.

He immediately took me to Nehemiah.
“When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that there were no more breaks in it—even though I hadn’t yet installed the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: “Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.” I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” Nehemiah? ?6:2-3? ?MSG??

When the enemy talks to us he definitely wants to draw us into the valley of O No!! O no valley is a negative, foreboding place.

Negativity shuts down heaven and God’s truth!

I love Nehemiah response! It was sassy and full of authority. “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”

His knew his authority and used it to stay in truth and hold value on God, himself and the work God has given to him to steward.

Discouragement, negativity and slander targets our authority. It will always ask us to come down. Come down in our thinking, our honor, our behaviours, our choices.

Remember your authority. God always asks us to come up, lift our eyes up, keep our eyes on Jesus.

We sit as CO-HEIRs with Jesus Christ whose name every knee will bow, who is the mighty glorious powerful son of the Most High God.

Our position is high, it’s next to Jesus!

Hebrews? ?10:35 says? “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”

Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall to stop the enemies coming into Jerusalem. For too long they had torn Jerusalem apart.

Nehemiah was building a new normal! We are on the same mission!

Use your authority and reply to the Devil’s slander, discouragement, and negativity, “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”

God bless you with the sassy authorative anointing of Nehemiah! 


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November 13th, 2018


We have entered a huge moment in time. In the natural there are 3 big public stadium events over this summer one after another in Melbourne Australia, which is predicted next year to become Australia’s largest city.

The Awakening Australia event at Marvel Stadium THIS WEEK, followed by the Salvation Army ‘Still Others’ event at the Exhibition Centre end of November and then finishing off with the Billy Graham Crusade in February.

This is a epoch moment in Australian history and all under the leadership of an openly Christian Prime Minister.

The Kingdom of Heaven has opened the gates, the fullness of time has come and has released a mass flood championing the darling of heaven and greatest GOOD NEWS of the world, Jesus!

Already there are amazing stories coming forth. A birthing has begun..

In this unprecedented moment, there is already and will be over these next weeks a push back from the enemy of God. Remember our battle is NOT against blood and flesh but against the power of darkness. It is a spiritual moment and a spiritual battle.

This is a time of promotion as spiritual sons and daughters find their way home to a Papa God who is very excited and passionate about them!

Some of you have received prophetic words about being spiritual fathers and mothers, others of you God is calling you up into a new mindset of being a spiritual father or mother. Heaven’s culture is family and new babies are being born.

Keep hold of your shield of faith in Jesus. What He has already dealt with in your life, the enemy wants to trigger those old pains and wounds. He is cruel and he is a DEFEATED FOE. Do not be distracted by what has already been dealt with. You are a new creation!

STAND your ground and reject rejection, shame, discouragement, self slander and punishment.

You are not just fighting for yourself! Your fight holds the space for people to find their way home to Papa God. You are enough! This is your moment of courage and it matters!

Keep worship before you in any form that works for you. Keep your eyes FIXED ON JESUS! Stand in the finished work of Jesus in your life!

The landscape is about to change forever.

If you are in the nations, family of God we need your prayers, love and cheers! Australia is yet to have its first ever national revival. Let’s do it together! We are so grateful for you!

God bless you! Helen Goatley



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The Courage Of Vulnerability – 4 Helpful And Powerful Ways

October 11th, 2018


We have all been there. Someone says something or shares something and it surprises us. We didn’t quite expect that level of vulnerability. It’s especially surprising when it comes from a leader, a boss or someone we have pedestalled.

What happens next is what this moment in history is all about right now.

How do we respond to vulnerability? How do we respond when a work colleague, a spouse, a friend offer a level of vulnerability that catches us off guard?

Our response in such moments reveals our level of understanding about connection and relationship. These moments are not to shame us, but to grow our value for connection.

I believe that the greater conversation is not about the vulnerability that was offered by another but do we see an opportunity to own our capacity to cope with that vulnerability and love unconditionally, especially if we demand it from our leaders?


You see what we believe around vulnerability shows up in such moments. Most often these experiences confronted us with the biggest myth out there, that vulnerability is weakness. 

We see the struggle in another.  Vulnerability might offer to us human imperfection and weakness in another.  We might see fault or failure in another.  And then what?

The ‘pattern’ of our world is this, expose and shame. Sadly a lot of parenting is this. Ironically research shows that parenting is a common shame experience we all share. When we are submerged in a culture of shame it is so easy to get on us. 

Never confuse shame for justice or accountability. Shame never drives positive behaviours or change. What it does drive is rage, blame and rationalisation.

The ironic thing is that when we shame others, it hurts us.  

If we live by the praise of men, we will die by their criticism.

Vulnerability is not about oversharing either.  Vulnerability is not outworking our offence, discomfort or rudeness on others. That is hurt speaking, attention seeking.

Vulnerability is safe because vulnerability has boundaries and is actually a way we can honor the relationship we have with another by showing them the genuineness of ourselves and journey.

A friend is someone who values what’s in the heart of another.  When we see people as friends and not objects or targets to shoot down because we are uncomfortable, we have an opportunity for connection.

Coddling people isn’t the answer either.  The most compassionate people are the most clear in who they are and what is ok and what is not ok in relationship with them. Compassion is not afraid of struggle. The cross of Jesus showed us this.


1.See it as a bid for connection. For connection to happen, vulnerability has to happen. Someone, including leaders, are choosing connection. They are reaching out.

2.Listen. Shakespeare said that ‘The rarest form of love is listening.’ Love doesn’t fix people. Love loves people. Love is sitting with people and not being afraid.  When I am afraid, I have infected love. I have chosen something that is inferior.   

This is the power of vulnerability, it gives our hearts a voice. It’s ok to say “I don’t know what to say right now, but I am glad to just be here with you.”

3.See vulnerability for what it is, courage. Research is conclusive on this. The most accurate measure of courage is vulnerability. The most courageous thing we can ever do, is own our vulnerability. Whether its in our personal or professional world, to own our vulnerability is the way actually to success. People are looking for real. Are we courageous enough to hold this value for vulnerability in our work culture, our eduction system, our homes?

Courage is contagious.

4.Encourage. Encouragement is a way we put courage into others. Every culture has ideas around encouragement. I have lived in cultures where encouragement is the norm and as a result I have seen people grow, shine and become the best versions of themselves and this is celebrated.

I have been in other cultures where to genuinely encourage someone has been called flattery and met with cynicism.  In other cultures the shame mindset is so thick that positive encouragement is totally rejected and ridiculed.

Yet encouragement is what feeds a starved soul ravaged by the harsh ‘i am not enough’ narrative we all encounter. This negativity is hard to flourish in. Dr Caroline Leaf a NeuroScientist says that negativity and unforgiveness literally causes brain damage! 

No wonder God has been all over his kids getting out of a negativity mindset! He doesn’t want us to suffer brain damage! He renews our minds because it is the ‘way, the truth, the life’. John 14:6

Encouragement speaks to the greatness in us and reminds us of who we are. This is healing and health! Encouragement gives us a way home to choose better options that are really us. 

Finally encouragement kills the number growing social disease of loneliness. It says you are not alone, I SEE YOU!

I remember a time when I was rumbling thru a tough tough moment, and over a period of a year, a spiritual Father who I highly respect, kept saying to me every time he saw me, “I see you.” There was love behind his words. These 3 words created a world that powerfully helped me through.

This is the power of vulnerability, it lets love into the places we need love. But we must be willing to risk being seen!


It begins with the words “I appreciate..”  and continues with something specific. The power of encouragement comes in the specific. Being told you are amazing is great, but being told specifically what is great is even more powerful.

Write it in a sms, note, email, paint it, say it and watch their world and confidence light up!

We were made for encouragement because it is where courage comes from! This is the powerful thing about New Testament prophecy. 1 Corinthains 14:3 says “But when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up and to bring them comfort.”

Wouldn’t this be amazing when courageously we leap out and practice vulnerability, we nourished with encouragement?

Hebrews 3:13 says “But encourage one another DAILY, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s decietfulness.”  Encouragement is a skill. We need to practice it, DAILY.  Don’t give up! Keep practicing and be vulnerable, don’t be embarrassed to tell people you are practical encouragement! 

The power of encouragement is that I know someone is in my corner and together we can succeed. 

So next time someone offers vulnerability out of left field or you see it offered by a person in authority, watch what YOU do with it. Connection is its prize! Listening and encouragement are its opportunities for you! Above all, remember courage just showed up. So can yours!



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The Pain of Blame – What to do with it!

September 12th, 2018


It had been a stressful evening. Late afternoon meetings, dinner, a phone call, kid shower and a bedtime session that went longer than I expected. I flopped down exhausted.

As I began to decompress from the compact ending to the day, out come a son who needed a bit more time with his parents to chat through some stuff on his mind. I reacted. I was done, done, done and ready to rest.

Communicating with that forced frustrated sigh, I spat back “Bedtime was 8:30, it is well past that, and this consistently happens because of my husband.” I ended my little outburst with that classic eye roll look that wives have such a unique way of perfecting.

Ouch! As soon as the words leapt out, I knew I had just been done in by blame! Oh my gosh we all know that emotion and go to behaviour. Connection was dead in the water. The shame storm kicked into its next level brewing!


News, Internet, Social Media, Politics, Business dealings, School interactions, Church cultures are saturated in it and sadly it shows up in our very own homes! Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault?

It seems we have lost our capacity for discomfort, vulnerability, and a simple life reality that somethings just take time. When we loose our capacity to ‘sit in the mess’ as one spiritual mama used to say, and feel the process, we become powerless and played by it.

Blame is the mindset of powerlessness. Blame is when we target others with our pain. Blame has been defined as “a way to offload discomfort and pain”.

When blame is running the show, accountability goes out the window. It is adverse to it and so slowly but dramatically, decline moves in and settles into our once civilised and well defined cultures.

The great casualties are connection, creativity and a capacity for positive change. Entire civilisations and nations have been the victims of this little nasty piece of human emotion and behaviour. World wars have been started on it.

At the heart of blame is really a story of not enough. This was the lie that got Eve and then Adam. Is what God said, enough? Is what God is, enough? And so human connection with its Creator turned on a dime in one fateful moment.

Painfully and sadly I owned and addressed my story of blame and the not ‘enough’s’ that ran with it. All week I had been combatting the myth of vulnerability is weakness and now again another opportunity to bat that out of my ball park.

I sucked it up and vulnerability showed up with a wincing utterance of ownership, quick flush of a red face and a brave heart in the mouth apology.

To my relief, it was courageously met with grace and forgiveness. This is the power of these two architects of connection. They love to put blame in their sights and target it with their full weight.

Needless to say, our son got his much needed space to chat. My shame storm quickly fizzled away and I sunk into that awkward but necessary space of self forgiveness. My story of ‘not enough’ finally arrived tumbling onto the shores of His enough, Jesus the Champion.



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How to overcome the ticked off culture

August 23rd, 2018


I was out riding the other morning. As I rode home, I rode past a group of three council men picking up an enormous amount of rubbish around a building site. The rubbish had blown into the park and down the road. 

With their long pick up sticks and plastic bags in hand, they were busy at work making a beautiful difference. As I rode up to them, I was so grateful for what they were doing but also felt for them in the job they were needing to do. 

So as I cycled past them, I caught their eyes and said thank you for what they were doing. The first guy whipped his head around with a cautious defending look on his face. The second looked up and seeing the smile on my face relaxed and smiled back.

It hit me again riding off, how much I appreciated their activity and how it nourishes us towards honor, dignity and respect.

But I was also intrigued at how we are becoming conditioned to public interaction being the default place of expecting angry, ticked off people. 

We are in one the most dramatic moments of human history, where the weightiness of our words has a far reaching impact like none other of previous generations. There is such a war on our words right now. 

Social manners, social discourse is up for grabs, but even more serious than quality of living with one another, is the serious attack on our identities.

In an interview earlier this year, Dr Brene Brown said that from her research, “Participants expressed a growing concern that the only thing that binds us together now is shared fear and disdain, not common humanity, shared trust, respect, or love. People report feeling more afraid to disagree or debate with friends, colleagues and family because of the lack of civility and tolerance.”

Psalm 57:4 quotes Brene in this way, “My soul is among lions: I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” 

Interestingly in Ephesians 6 one of the weapons we are given is the ‘sword of the Spirit’.  This sword was an 18” dagger in 61AD when Paul wrote this letter to the people of Ephesus. This dagger was specifically used not only for close combat but for the soldier to dig out arrows that had hit him.

Ever had a sudden pang out of no where felt in your body, especially your back? It can be word arrows hitting you.

And so the words of Proverbs 23:7 echo and play out in our everyday lives, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”

As sons and daughters of God, our words create worlds. Because we are made in the image of God, when we speak our words, something is created. We see this in Genesis. “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

Our entire existence, the world and galaxies around us were spoken into existence. This is the both the nature of God and our nature of whom we are made in.

This is the exciting power of prophecy. It is a spoken word from God, that just birthed something into the realm of men that did not previously exist.

Coupled with this reality, is the reality that our words also carry resurrection power. Romans 8:11 says “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

When we give the Holy Spirit permission in our lives, we are receiving the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We have resurrection power flowing in our DNA that gives life to us. Our words will resurrect things.

Robin Williams said it well in ‘Dead Poets Society’, “No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the word.” 

Some of the most powerful words that are changing the world, are coming from  what I call a movement of honor. Pastor Bill Johnson defines honor as celebrating who a person is without stumbling over who they are not.

But honor is also about owning our stories, being willing to live alive to recognise the words which are building these stories and receiving their truth with compassion, not off loading our pain, discomfort and made up stories.

Honor is what big people do. Honor is what free people do. Honor says “we are better than this.” Honor is who we are, not the narratives that shame the ‘master emotion’ as Sociologists call it, speak.

There is a higher standard and invitation being asked of us in this moment of history with all the freedoms of speech and connection at our disposal. 

That standard is honor. This standard will stop the war on words and create a new default place, one marked by civility, gratitude, truth, love and above all connection.

The standard begins with us. It begins with us as parents teaching our children, and being this in our workplaces and sporting clubs.

We are honorable because it is who we are. We are honourable not because we base our honor on the actions and behaviours of others. Because we are honourable, we speak words knowing they create worlds.

And by the way, if the sharp pain felt was a word arrow. Pull it out by forgiving the speaker(s) and declare blessing over them in Jesus name.



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Living Free  –  Practicing Generosity so I Stay Who I Really Am

August 7th, 2018


What do you do when suddenly you are ushered into the room of unexpected change? What do you do when change becomes messy and seems to evoke the ugly in people, including yourself?

What happens when you boldly set out a course and it attracts unwanted judgement and criticism?

What do you do with the cranky driver who waves their judgement at you or the out of sorts teenager who offers a mouthy assessment of your instructions?

These common and not so common moments land on all of us. We are in a season right now we where are being given a multitude of opportunities to practice something other than negativity and judgement. 

Judgement paints others with our values. Our values are what shows up when there is conflict, tension and change.

Generosity is something else we can reach for when these moments happen upon us.

Generosity says “At any given moment people really are trying to do the best they can with what they have. Our bests are all different!”

Generosity looks at the situation and the individual and says “What is the most generous interpretation of what another is saying, intending and doing?”

Practicing generosity allows us to operate from the place of compassion and grace. It is jail breaking out of judgement. Socrates stated, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Pain and discomfort will always make itself known. Is that for us to judge or it that for us to bring the courage of compassion and healthy boundaries to? 

Courage extends generosity to other people and extends generosity to ourselves. When change, out of sort teenagers and cranky drivers walk over our boundaries, compassion or judgement will show up.

I remember years ago reading in the Old Testament the description of the Temple, the place God chose on earth to dwell in.. His home. Amidst grand descriptions of gold censors, candle stands, altars, huge winged cherubim’s, was a item called the ‘Mercy Seat’. It seemed humble, easy to overlook in the eye distracting dazzle of everything else that made up the most important real estate on earth. 

Mercy. What God, the King of the Universe, sits on. The surprising centre piece of His house. This layout and choice of furniture in God’s house screamed the reflection of His heart, mercy triumphs in this house over judgement.

The minute someone’s behaviour or words hurt us or puts us down, the arm wrestle is on! It is hard to be generous! It is hard to slide into that space of saying “They are trying the best they can with what they have.”

It is much easier to reach for judgement. While we do not know that they are in fact trying the best they can with what they have, it is way more fun to assume that. And way more responsible of us.

The alternative to generosity leaves us in self judgement that says, “I don’t want to accept that this person is doing the best they can because it would make me look like a very unkind person the way I have been treating them.”

What will we own? Ourselves or be more distracted at what others are not doing.

The harder thing to do is practice generosity, but it is what courage does. Courage is not afraid of doing hard things because courage will not give itself away to the behaviours and opinions of others. Courage owns itself.

Generosity is what love Himself has always done. God practices perfect generosity!  “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

I love the definition of repentance as doing a u turn to return to higher thinking. In the word repent, we see ‘pent’.  Pent is attached to the word penthouse and this is a confined space on the roof or top floor of a building.

When we fall from thinking higher thoughts, generous thoughts, the Bible says our minds become “debased.” (Romans 1:29) Debased means to lower in status, esteem, quality and character. It is to reduce the intrinsic value of something or someone.

This is the scary thing about judgement. We decide what is valued and not, and sentence accordingly. When our judgements are around what is wrong with a person, organisation or situation rather than on what God has given them, we reduce them in our mind. Our thinking lowers the status, esteem, quality and character of another and  suffering and negativity results.

We end up not only punishing others but ourselves as well, and being unable to receive what God has given them.

The most courageous thing we can ever do is be generous in the face of tempting judgement. For too long Christianity has been defined by what we see as the problem and not who we see as the answer.

In effect we have worshipped sin and all that is wrong with others and the world, rather than the answer to it. We practiced experiencing not the presence of God but the presence of negativity, condemnation and shame.

When we lift Jesus up and our delight is in God, the answer, this will draw all men. (John 12:32) What are we drawing?

Practicing generosity is our way forward. It will break off judgemental thinking and set us free to show up and be, and remain who we really are.


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What stops us from living Courage?

July 24th, 2018


I was encouraging a friend recently who has been blogging online. Their heart is to encourage and empower others. Their action came because God asked them to rise and shine. A good positive community upbuilding thing to do hey?

But barely into the venture, the social media critics came out blasting. Courage was looking wobbly.

We all know that feeling. It’s nauseating. Debilitating. Its enough for some to pack up and head home and let courage belong to others.

How do we fight thru that emotional nausea and stay the course? How do we do the critics and haters, rather than they do us?

One of the key features of the times we are living in is what I call a judgement culture. There seems to be a focus more on what is wrong with a person, organisation or situation as opposed to what God has given them.

Doug Addison a Christian Prophetic Leader shared recently that an “Angry Wind has been released on the earth because too many people were negative and judging rather than blessing and lifting up.”

Proverbs says “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat the fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” (Proverbs 18:21)

With the spoken word God created the world. (Genesis 1:3) John even introduced Jesus as the “Word” that become flesh and dwelt amongst us. (John 1:14) Just like the God we follow, we also are creators.

Our breathe, our words have created and now we are bearing the fruit of the substance of our words, a culture of Judgement.

Judgement is both an experience and an emotion. Judgement has been defined by Sociological research as “observation with values attached.” In other words, when others express their judgement, they are expressing what they observe of those around them thru the lens of their values. It is putting their values on the actions of others.

Interestingly this same research showed that we judge others in areas where we ourselves are most susceptible to shame. There is nothing like the vulnerability and courage of others, to shake out our shame narratives that we are not enough.

Judgement reveals as much about ourselves as it does those we are judging.

When judgement is in operation within a culture, connection will suffer. It is not just relational connection that suffers. It is connection with our destinies too. In fact judgement has to die for there to be connection.

So how do we be courageous continually in the face of painful and hurtful attacks of judgement? How do we not become what is surrounding us?

As I asked Papa God this, he said to me “Getting curious will shut down judgement and keep you out of it.

Curiosity is what cats do so well. Over and over again I see cats walk up to something that’s a bit different, that’s entered their ‘dominions’ and simply get curious. I notice they have no hesitation, shifting their position, moving around to check out all the angles, all the squeaks, all the movements of what just entered their worlds.

I have never yet experienced judgement from a cat. Conquest yes. Judgement no.

It is impossible to be curious without shifting our position. When I get curious rather than judgmental, I have left my values, what I think is right, or my ego at the door, and I have ventured into the new. This is the way of empathy. I have decided to move towards rather than move away from that which is different or unexpected.

And as I do that, I let go of my need to judge. Henri Nouwen puts it this way, “Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy.” And this is the point. Cultures of Judgement are cultures devoid of mercy and where there is no mercy, there will be no courage. Mercy is a champion of courage!

Ironically as we get curious in the face of experiencing judgement, we are cultivating one of the key qualities that got us to the point of courage in the first place, curiosity.

So get curious, not judgemental. Get curious, not defensive.

Curiosity. Check it out. It will protect you from becoming what is around us and it will keep you in what you really want, courage.

Keep showing up anyway.


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The Power of Curiosity – Defeating Defensiveness

June 27th, 2018


I was on a call yesterday with a leader and creative. He shared how he is encountering a lot of defensiveness as he works with people.

Part of the shift especially in the western world, is that now we live in cultures that are shame based.

When we are hit by experiences and emotion of shame it yells at us, “You are bad. You are not enough.” The differentiation between a behaviour/action and identity is blurred and lost.

Yet there is a world of difference between my choice being bad and me being bad!

Shame cultures are marked by fear, disconnection and blame. This leaves thin identities and self confidence in people.

One of the leading Social Scientists of our time says, “all too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence.” (Dr Brene Brown)

Curiosity is our way home. Curiosity changes our heart. It shifts us to learner where we acknwledge don’t know it all. But that’s a journey! We must fight biology.

Biologically our brains are wired for story. Infact neuroscientists have discovered that our brains only need a few pieces of information and then our brains will make up story using just a few pieces of data.

Getting curious is leaving our stories at the door, and shifts us emotionally from judgement to curiosity. This makes us safe.

All too often we live choosing to be safe theologically/academically but not safe relationally.

Hebrews 3:13 says “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Curiosity makes a way for encouragement, and specific encouragement to happen. Curiosity says your worthy of love, connection and me!

We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations and be more curious than defensive.

The opportunity of this moment is exciting. It offers to us a skill that can change our worlds in an instant, encouragement.

One of the greatest leaders of our faith was a guy name Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.”

Encouragement is what awaits us the other side of curiosity. Try it today and watch it shift your heart and the heart of others!


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The Courage to Show Up and Be Seen

June 20th, 2018


I have been thinking lots lately about 1 John 4:18. “Love has no fear, because perfect love casts out all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

When we are courageous we will face off with fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the choose for something greater than it.

When courage is the choice, we impact the space and narratives of others around us.

How they respond reveals a lot about them, and us. Listen to the differenet voices about the USA President Trump right now. Whatever we think, he is choosing courage over comfort that’s for sure and it is impacting our spaces and narratives!

The thing about fear is that it shows what level of love we have experienced and what level of love we are in need of.

When I connect with fear to others showing up and letting themselves be seen, it is never pretty. Fear never reveals the best of us.

When we reach for punishment as a way of managing our fear or shame, it’s even less pretty. Slander, disconnection, threats, withholding kindness and civility.

The sad thing is that we hurt ourselves the most when we choose punishment as our response.

Sadly most of the cultures we live in daily are cultures of punishment not love nor courage. They are cultures and actions driven by self interest and as a result they become selfish, entitling and narcissistic.

And not safe.

Are we raising our children on a culture of courage or punishment?

Are we nurturing friendships, work or church environments in cultures of fear or courage?

Love is vulnerable. Love is not self seeking. Love covers not exposes. Love speaks truth civilly. Love hurts and it suffers. Love is kind, messy and celebrates the courage of those around them to show up and let themselves be seen.

This is love’s manners and it will always have courage around it.

Maya Angelou says “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

So will we show up and let ourselves be seen? Will we pursue love or continue with punishing behaviours and fear, when others choose courage over comfort.

Love casts out fear. Fear casts out courage. Own your story. If fear is owning you, take you back.

Choose courage.


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Fear Growing Over Your Fence

June 13th, 2018


Oh my gosh I just saw now as I looked out the window, the trees we planted a few months ago. They are now reaching higher than the fence we positioned them next to! I can’t believe it! It’s winter and shouldn’t they be slowing down their growing?

As parents we know that feeling with our children. Their continuous growth can be shocking and daunting at times! And notice how it always happens when we don’t expect it!

The suddenlies of growth!

Over the last few weeks there has been something more than just trees growing.

Fear has grown too. I have been seeing it everywhere. Peoples eyes, peoples words, peoples way of driving on the road, laced with fear.

I was at the check out yesterday, glanced down and there embolden in large black font were the words “Terrorist plot foiled!”

Fear! And it was reaching over the fence into my backyard. It wasn’t in the backyard of Ireland or Israel, this time it was in mine!

It is in all of ours.

And we are growing really tired of it.

Everywhere I am going as I train, consultant and speak, people are communicating that they are getting sick and tired of being bombarded with being told who they should be afraid of.

Kids are tired of being scared into not saying ‘hi’ to the neighbour who walks by as they play football in the park. In the work place, people are tired of being scared into performance reviews. On our roads, people are fed up with hate and anger as the prevailing go to emotions to deal with fear.


My husband says its overrated!


Is it really that powerful that it now seems to be ordering our lives, our values, our relationships???? But what do we do about it? How do we navigate fear?

Isn’t it a basic human need and right to feel safe physically and emotionally? So what are we doing as a society? Do we really understand what we are doing when we teach our kids and ourselves to not say hello??

A few years back I had the amazing privilege of studying under Dr Brene Brown. She is a Social Scientist and Professor at Houston University. From her research, she defined fear as the inability to manage vulnerability.

Because the nature of vulnerability is risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure, this naturally evokes feelings of fear in us. We all experience the fear that vulnerability pulls on in us and for some it pulls on terror.

But fear always comes with a story. And because terror is the more common word now used for fear, the story is more extreme, more life threatening, more debilitating.

Are we aware of the story we are hearing when we feel fear? Our brains are wired for story. NeuroScientists say that our brains only need 1-2 pieces of information in order to make up a story, then it will fill in the rest with emotion, if an individual doesn’t have the skill set to find out the information needed to get the true story.

God has a story too. The bible acknowledges and honours the vulnerability in moments of fear and speaks to that. The freedom offered to us in the Scriptures is that fear is faith in an inferior. It is the by product of a whole bunch of “me” in focus.

This is true. Fear is by its nature a self conscious affect, emotion. It is one of 4 emotions we experience as human beings that makes us intensely aware of ourselves.

Fear is a power emotion. It drives a enormous amount of energy physiologically in us. That energy has to go somewhere.

God says put that energy here. He shows up, draws us out of ourselves and says crazy things like, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you”, “Don’t be afraid, Trust in me”, “Don’t be afraid, for you have found favour with God.”

God loves vulnerability. He calls it faith. He calls it courage. He calls it pleasing! Me on the other hand, can call it crazy, insane!!

Time and time again he reaches out to us and offers us vulnerability, because in vulnerability is connection and that will sustain us in the fear! Here is the bottom line of what God is really on about, connection.

Fear kills connection.

What do I really believe about vulnerability? It is not oversharing, off loading or blaming. It is not weakness. In fact research has shown us that it is the most accurate measure of courage. It is a courageous, honest owning of ourselves before another.

What value do I give to vulnerability? That will determine how I manage fear.

It is vulnerable to grow. But we can’t stop our kids from growing, we can’t stop the trees from growing.. apparently even this winter!

Are we tired enough to give up being scared and reach for vulnerability? Are we sick enough of growing our children on fear and brave enough to say, “Hello!” instead of walking past saying nothing?

Have we had enough of hate and anger as go to emotions for dealing with fear, and ready to try something new like “o that quick turn in front of me frightened me” and  I will own my emotion and actions by taking my time to deep breathe and slow my heartbeat”?

What is going to reach higher than your fence today?


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Do Human not Hustle

May 29th, 2018


Hustle. Yep there it was, just waiting as Monday began. Hustle was all over the roads driving on them as the sun rose over the late autumn hills. Hustle was there inviting itself into my parenting. Hustle was in the car park. Hustle was at the checkout in the Cafe. Hustle tried to catch a lift back with me to work.

Hustle. We all know it. We all experience it.

Hustle. The outworking of our fear and inadequacy onto others.

We live in cultures that really are having an emotional conversation. The conversation is around our value and dignity as human beings and this conversation has some significant drivers. Inadequacy and fear.

Are we enough… not only for our functions, but for the greater things that really change the world like love and belonging to something bigger than ourselves?

I have watched over the last 12 years fear change us. Change our families, change our communities, change our nations. Before my very eyes, I watched fear dramatically change the USA as we lived there.

Fear is accompanied with other words now. Infact they are more commonly spoken than the word fear. Words like hustle, anxiety… terror. I have seen for the first time in my lifetime not only acts of terrorism, but repeated acts of terrorism in my own city. It is no longer confined to London or Israel or Paris.

Dr Brene Brown defined terrorism as “time-released fear. It embeds fear so deeply in the heart of a community that makes fear become a way of life. This unconscious way of living then fuels so much anger and blame that people start to turn on one another.”1.

Participants in a recent research expressed a growing “concern that the only thing that binds us together now is shared fear and disdain, not common humanity, shared trust, respect, or love. People report feeling more afraid to disagree or debate with friends, colleagues and family because of the lack of civility and tolerance.”2.

Fear has become the dominate emotional driver of so many of our cultures and relationships, and by and large we don’t recognise that!

What we don’t lean into, we can’t move through. When we do this, we become defined by it and it owns us.

Fear intimidates our humanity and our divinity.

So in this atmosphere of heightened fear, we evidence society reaching for anger and hate as the go to emotions. When we reach for anger and hate as way to manage fear, we descend down a very dark path of the destruction of human dignity.

Hustle is a sojourner on this path. Hustle is slippery. Hustle is the clever demise of human worth. But when we refuse to hustle, we begin to disempower fear and inadequacy and we give ourselves permission to be human and others permission to be human.

To be human is to be vulnerable, and I believe that the invitation to us squarely and fairly in this hour is to do human better. Infact, if we don’t do human better, the force and unconsciousness of the fear in our nations will drive us only further into loss of dignity and freedom.

If we don’t value vulnerability, we won’t manage fear.

When we stop hustling, we stop fear and we let in love. Love casts out fear or fear bullies love (1 John 4:18). They are mortal enemies.

God did human. Full human. Philippians 2 says, “He existed in the form of God.. emptied Himself of the OUTER glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man..”

God loves human. He took His image and dignity and made human (Isaiah 60:1). God is not afraid of human, nor is He afraid of fear. He honours our humanity and vulnerability (Psalm 103:14). Love is fearless.

We encounter a sense of worth when we encounter His Presence and this sense of worth is a prerequisite for showing up and living courageously in our lives.

The opposite to love is not hate, it is fear. Fear hustles. Love is patient. Fear is a whole bunch of me in focus. Love is sitting with each other not afraid. Fear argues with our self worth. Love says “You are enough.” Fear demands tidy, perfect lives. Love is messy and vulnerable. Fear keeps us small. Love makes us big.

So let me leave you with this question. Do we really think fear is that powerful that we have to be afraid of it?

We can do human better.

  1. Brene Brown, Speech to the RSA, The Power of Vulnerability, June 2013
  2. Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness, 2017


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“It’s about me!” Turning a Season that is Turning

May 16th, 2018


This week has had one repeated word. Joy. Everywhere I look, the word joy appears. I am being stalked by the word.

There is a shift in the atmosphere and season. We experienced it pretty quickly at the beginning of the week and along with it was in an invitation to an intense agreement with “it’s all about me”.

I noticed that if we shook hands with that invitation, intensity and hustle were the immediate welcoming committee.

A quick search in the top trending issues in business and society in Australia and USA right now, revealed the word ‘narcissism’. It listed twice in the top 5 current concerns in these spheres. Narcissism’s heart is “it’s all about me!”

Psalm 16:11 says “In His Presence is fullness of Joy”. What invitation do we want to shake hands with? When I invite joy, I invite Him. What does He bring? Fullness of Joy! Suddenly I am more conscious of Him, not myself.

The interesting thing about the emotion of joy is that it is one of the emotions that is additive. In other words it “adds” to us, it gives us energy, strength, hope. Anxiety, disappointment, negativity “take” from us. These emotions consume huge amounts of energy and focus from us.

Joy and anxiety can not coexist. We either choose one or the other. Joy displaces anxiety and actually cures it! Likewise joy and anger or joy and entitlement can’t coexist. When I choose one, I kick out the other.

A Jesuit priest once said, “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” The pathway to joy is laid one stone of gratitude at a time.

Joy is cultivated by repeated choices to be grateful for what is. Joy doesn’t stumble over what isn’t.

Joy is cultivated by celebrating often little things, and as we celebrate them, we awaken in understanding, in sight, in joy.

So last night I sat down with my journal and wrote across the top, “I am grateful for..” The first thing that popped into my head was God’s provision. He arrested my focus!

As I wrote those words, I began to experience His presence. I saw Him drawing near to me and suddenly a bunch of energy and ideas tumbled out through my pen.

I began writing all the ways I had seen Him provide in this day. I was grateful for His provision of the rain, a warm home as winter makes it decent, the joy on my son’s face as he shared the finish of his first exam of 3 for this week, and on it went.

By the end of this flow of gratitude, I was in awe and worship of a Father God who provides. I was aware, it wasn’t all about me and the heavy yoke that this invitation brings! Me was settled in the focus of joy.

I was in partnership with God and what His goodness is bringing in this season. I celebrate and cultivate the joy of the substance of what He has done. I don’t shame Him or blame Him for what is not yet.

Joy is revelatory experience and this transforms us! This is a key for living and overcoming this current atmosphere and season. It is a very tangible way I can bring heaven and the God of heaven to earth!

His presence is attracted to our joy!

His will for me, for you on this earth as it is in heaven is joy!

How can you invite joy into today? Turn the key and you turn your atmosphere and season!


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You’re Enough is Not Up for Debate

May 8th, 2018


Always with change, be it a little change or big, our identity gets another work over. The relentless message of “you’re not enough and there is not enough” pounds away at our current identity as we navigate the transition.

It is in facing honestly the conversation we have about ourselves that we find a new encouragement and a new opportunity for growth.

Jesus encouraged us that “The truth sets us free.” (John 8:32) Truth is not for the faint of heart, but truth is for the heart!

He adores our humanity. He is not afraid nor surprised at our narratives of not enough. And it is in that space, his love will upgrade and affirm who we are.

Our enough is not up for debate. Our worthiness is not something we negotiate. If we go through the world looking for proof we are not enough, we will find it!

The truth of who we are, our worthiness, our identity is not an eternally determined thing. It is a truth we have chosen to settle in our hearts. A truth from His affection and honor of us.

That is never up for debate! That is the gift change gives us. In whatever change faces you today, ask him, “who am I to you Papa God?” To receive that is to receive his affirmation for the new that is before you!

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Making Friends with Your Humanity

May 2nd, 2018


“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him.” LUKE 15:20 AMP

Wow what a response to disappointment and the humanity of another, especially when that other is familiar, known, family?

Here is a Father. He sees a long way off and connects with the vulnerability of his son. He rans towards. He embraces. He clothes and covers that vulnerability with the finest he has. 

This is so counter-cultural. Culture is so wired right now for rejecting our humanity and our imperfections, preferring to dose up on the myth of perfection and the juice of judgment.

Heaven’s culture is ridiculous and offensive, and will find our religious buttons. It runs towards and makes friends with our humanity and our vulnerability.

Heaven was so ridiculous in its honouring of our humanity, it got really carried away and made Jesus, the Darling of heaven, human. And then not only that, but human son to a virgin teenager betrothed to be married!

What do we do in this toxic shame culture with imperfection?

We are neuro-biologically hard wired to not hurt one another. Did you know that? It goes against our human nature literally. 

Violence, slander, gossip goes against who we are. We are made for connection, for forgiveness, for interdependence. We are made to need each other. Research shows that when we hurt another person, we actually hurt ourselves. 

One of the growing behaviours in the Western World right now is what researchers call ‘common enemy intimacy’. Common Enemy Intimacy is connection around who we should all hate. We relate to each other based on who we hate, rationalising that is where our pain and suffering is coming from.

Social behaviours get actioned out thru so many avenues, social media being a significant one of them, slowly eroding our humanity with words and images that dehumanise.

Meanwhile history is shouting to us showing us that these progressions are the basis of every genocide that has ever happen. 

“In USA right now we are slowly using dehumanising language with people with whom we disagree. No one has the high ground, from leaders to people it’s happening. When we use dehumanising language it says more about us that the people we are dehumanising & I think honestly it chips away at our soul. Dehumanisation is not a social justice tool, it is emotional off loading, it is self indulgent, it is a way to off load our anger, our fear, our rage.” Dr Brene Brown 2017

But this was not what the Father did. The Father did not choke at the vulnerability or imperfection seen in his son, though he had every ‘right’ to feel disappointed.

This Father did what our Father in Heaven does. He was safe. He was honor. He was completely intolerant of shame and it’s tools. The Father’s capacity to receive who and what his son had chosen, was on show here. For you see, our responses say more than perhaps the actions of others.

The Father was moved. He reckoned with emotion and responded with fearless compassion, reckless love and bullet proof honor. He knew he was not judge, he was Father. He mastered his self-righteousness and grief.

His strength was both in spirit and soul, and he ran TOWARDS vulnerability, towards humanity, towards imperfection.

And he still runs towards today. God is a good Father!

And us?

Father God, thank you you are good. You are safe, you are always honouring us and you never dehumanise us. You love our vulnerability. Teach us how to be like wise. Teach us how to be like you and not like that which is around us. In Jesus Name and for Jesus name.



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You are Enough

April 11th, 2018


As we grow our spirit, we will also be invited to grow and mature in our soul too. 

Our soul maturity shows up as we rumble with such questions as how do I navigate mystery, disappointment, delay or failure in my faith journey with God? What is my value for creativity and vulnerability when God changes the season? How do I live in a shame based western world culture and not be of that pattern in my thinking, my relating, my heart thoughts? How do I walk in honor with others vs off load my pain, shame and blame onto others? How do I own my story and write it rather than be unconscious giving it away for others to write?

There is no doubt, life is a journey! To hold this perspective is kind.. and real. What we don’t know today, we may know tomorrow.

Grow in spirit yes. But grow in the soul realm too! Be kind to yourself, grow! Don’t be afraid of change. It is your best friend. Own your spirit and soul, its part of your beauty and gift to the world, and right now the world needs you!

A leading Socialogical researcher recently said, “We are at a turning point in history, that should not be minimised or misunderstood. When I look through 200,000 pieces of data my team & I have collected over the past 16 yrs of research, I can only conclude our world is in a collective spiritual crisis.” Dr Brene Brown, November 2017.

We live in shifting sands where we need both spirit and soul maturity. We live in an atmosphere of accelerated change whether we want it, like it or are seeking it. We do not get to opt out of change. This is a turning point moment in the history of mankind, and in this context, we live, we matter and all that God is stirring within us matters.

“You are responsible for the energy you bring into a space” says Jill Bolte Taylor. This is not only true of each of us as individuals but also as a generation.

This “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” (Philippians 1:9) Isn’t it interesting? As we choose to step further into love we begin to abound in knowledge and discernment, this is going to put tension on our soul maturity.

This is the essence of growth. Growing in our soul health and maturity balances us. Real spiritual maturity can’t exist without it. Faith without works is dead. We are invited to the work of love and that will grow our soul maturity! 

You are enough for that! Your presence, your journey, your choices for growth, matter. They occupy a space in a crucial time.

May we never be afraid of growing. Father God help us to grow in spirit and in soul! Encounter us with your great love Jesus! In Jesus Name and for the name of Jesus.

If you want to intentionally grow more in soul, consider doing a Living Courage Day



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Culture Shift – What world are you living in?

March 20th, 2018


A report on the Shift in Culture

by Helen J Goatley B.A. Dip Ed. Dip Theol.


Our culture has shifted. I propose that in the majority of the Western world, we have shifted our cultural base. Our culture is not in process of changing, but has already fully changed.

I believe that the Western world is now a Shame based culture and that this culture is penetrating every mountain of influence thus affecting every aspect of how we do life. I also propose that in this new world, we have a brilliant opportunity to grow in understanding of and anticipating the needs that now are being presented to us.

This shift invites the courageous, the brave in us. It already is demanding dramatic development in how we work with people in all spheres of life.  Compassion, empathy, creativity and vulnerability are going to be our guides as we navigate this world in change.

What is a Shame Based Culture and how did that happen?

In her recent research spanning nearly two decades and very turbulent ones in the USA, Dr Brene Brown of Houston University unearthed shame as the emotion of feeling, “I am bad, I am not enough. It is that intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love, connection and belonging.”

Her research also supported medical findings that shame when experienced physiologically especially for children, has the same effect as trauma.

Anthropologist Ruth Benedict popularised a distinction between a guilt based culture and a shame based culture. She asserted that in a guilt base culture, good and bad (morality) is defined by your own personal conscience. It’s emphasis is upon the actions not the identity of an individual.

A shame based culture however, defines morality by what your community says about you by their actions and words of honor or exclusion. Thus in a shame based culture, social exclusion asserts they are bad.

I propose that a shame based culture feeds on the fruit of fear and often negative experiences and choices that impact an entire people group. An example of this is being witnessed in the USA. With the impact of 9/11 followed by an economic crisis unparalleled since the Great Depression, few American families have been left untouched. The result is now a nation rumbling through an identity conversation as it has traversed the passage from a guilt based culture to that of a shame based culture.

As the nation has walked the recent season of electing a new President, the shame culture has shown its hand in blatant, brutal ways. New York Times Columnist, David Brooks recently wrote an enlightening article declaring ‘America the Shame Culture.’ He quotes Andy Crouch, who argued that with the “omnipresence of social media in the form of Facebook and Instagram, a new sort of shame culture is being nurtured. The world is on constant, accessible 24/7 display and observation. Desire to be embraced and praised by the community and not exiled and condemned is intense. Freedom of speech just reached another volume and plane, dragging with it, moral life.”

What’s the impact and implications for us now?

So how does this impact us in the nations and us as Believers in Jesus? What are the implications for us? What are the answers?

The world of shame hits identity and identity is at the heart of our functioning as human beings. It is out of identity that destiny flows. When shame becomes our narrative, then our identity postulates, ‘I am bad, I am not enough’. The fundamental story of who we are has changed.

Medical science has bought us the understanding that our minds are made for narrative, for story. When a event happens, the brain functions to identify what happened (the story) and responds by directing the body’s actions. The amygdala which is located in the brain is responsible for regulating emotions, and when triggered releases energy to the body so it can move the body to a place perceived as safe. This primeval need for protection must be met. The story the brain makes up doesn’t have to be based on truth, it translates whatever pieces of data it has and uses it to meet the need of the opposing threat.

The impact of the ‘shame story’ then becomes manifest by self-righteousness, blame, comparison, performance, judgement, criticism, slander and the greatest of these, the hustle. Our Western culture drives, models and exalts hustle as the definition of self worth. Hustle becomes justified by perfection that rushes to be first in an attempt to head off rejection. “Not enough” eats away at identity and reduces the human being to a human doing, all the while suffocating with pretence our real selves, our real anointing and our real destinies.

The implications of the ‘not good enough’ drum in a culture is the hiding of our real selves, the loss of integrity as a means of presenting the real self or the identity of a group.  It brings a loss of boundaries which help define personal integrity and generosity towards others.  Tribalism is witnessed as shamed groups shame their shamers and social media becomes the hammer to meter out ‘justice’. Shame never has and never will make big people. Shame is willing to delightfully sacrifice courage and bravery to reduce any one to its ‘not enough’ norm.

On the advent of many prophetic voices speaking of and communities actively preparing for revival, I have to ask, what will be revived by God?

What I have seen globally because of my Anthropological and Sociological training is now being seen in the results of other fields of scientific research. Answers lay in educating and nurturing the qualities and values of honor, empathy, compassion, forgiveness and wholeheartedness. None of which can be entered into unless there is a willingness to look eye to eye at our stories, ways in which we ‘do’ life and rumble honestly with emotion to encounter the radical but offensive kindness of God. The end result I propose will produce a new level of maturity in our humanity and His Divinity. It is the becoming of being human.

There has been for sometime a real push in acknowledging the whole being, body, soul, mind and spirit. Buzz words like spiritual and emotional intelligence are frequently used. I suggest that in the Christian world there is a HUGE need to upgrade and develop more understanding in these realms if we are to survive in what is now the reality of a shame culture running rampant.

What we don’t understand we naturally reject. That rejection will continue to be costly and fatal to our hearts, our messages, our relationships and our organisations. We have the greatest message of honor, hope, joy and freedom. God’s message says, “You are enough for the King of the Universe to come and seek out connection. You have value not because of what you have done but because you are simply worthy. You are enough. You are a son/daughter of the Most High God.”

Self righteousness doesn’t loan us value. It simply is a tentacle of self loathing (shame), puffing itself up beginning with the belief that I am better than others and leaves us thinking the worst of ourselves confirming that we are not enough. Self-righteousness died because of Jesus’s righteousness that screamed, “IT is FINISHED.” (John 19:30)  What was finished? Our not enoughness!!

To recognise shame, we must embrace our story. True honor confronts our story with vulnerability, empathy and compassion, this is the power of the cross! Honor speaks to what is lost in the onslaught of shame. It reminds us again that we are honorable. Journeying through our difficult stories to lay aside blame, comparison, performance and arrive to the embrace of vulnerability, forgiveness and the truth of a Father whose love and view of us never changes. It is compassionate light and not comparison light that will shift culture and shift the shame narrative.

The leading field of research in Psychology now is Heart Math. At the core of Heart Math is understanding of emotion and belief systems which produce energy, energy to change and create synergy. The outcomes of this research are having significant impact in how and who is employed in the work place. Heart Math has always been the central focus of our God. Jesus message always invited the learner to consider that what the heart meditated upon was the director for actions pursued. To God, the issue was heart and who moved the heart, and so it is for current Psychology! Shame is a heart issue. It is a trauma to believe anything else other than when God made us, His first words were, “It is good” and so He blessed us (Genesis 1 & 2). There is no blessing or affirmation that you are good in a shame culture.

What will we embrace?

So as we venture further into a new century and a new culture, we embrace a new journey into spiritual, emotional and cultural intelligence.  Vulnerability, empathy, compassion, honor can light our way. Can we and do we have the skills to handle, nurture and embrace them? The “Passion of Christ” is a template for these. Jesus has and Jesus will always be our central connecting point. Connection came for us when He was lifted up in total vulnerability, empathy and compassion.

We are going to have to have confrontations around our ideas on vulnerability. The myth that is so commonly believed is that vulnerability is weakness. Yet sociological research shows it is the most accurate measure of courage. Vulnerability is a skill to practice and receive, but it is how we can move through the shame culture.

When we teach our kids and ourselves as adults to communicate that they feel scared rather than do the actions of scared like bullying and violence, we can begin to shift culture. We must change the current status quo where we are more comfortable causing pain than feeling the pain. This happens when we embrace the power of vulnerability.

Will we put our brave on as Jesus did? It will invite a revival of honor, empathy and generosity which is as Dr Brene Brown’s research discovered is bringing the most generous interpretation of someone else actions, intentions and words. This is encountered in another culture, the culture of His Presence.

The Presence of God is a culture shifter and transcends all communities, all generations, all languages, all experiences. It is in His Presence we encounter and are undone by His compassion, His unconditional love, His honor, His empathy, and above all HIS vulnerability. He shows up and show us Him. Presence centred Communities, Business’, Schools, families & individuals will shift a culture that has shifted. Which will we choose?

*This text may only be used with full acknowledgement & permission of the Author, Helen Goatley.

Brown PHD, Brene  – I thought it was just Me (But it isn’t)
Brooks, David – The Shame Culture (New York Times, March 15, 2016)
Vanier, Jean – Becoming Human
Thompson MD, Curt – The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

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