There was a typo right there in the Dedication.
Several weeks ago, I began offering a free bonus to anyone who pre-orders my new book Loveable. The bonus is a companion book—The Year of Listening, Loving, and Living: Becoming Your Truest You (One Week at a Time)—with weekly exercises to cultivate the experiences that will begin happening in the midst of reading Loveable. In the Dedication of the bonus book, I wrote, “To each of my readers—for five years now, your reading of my words as been a weekly gift. This is my weekly gift back to you.”
Do you see the problem?
I didn’t. Until a reader emailed me and pointed out the mistake. A missing ‘h.’ I’d poured over the manuscript countless times, and I’d even had people edit for me. None of us caught it.
My heart sort of imploded, and then dropped into my stomach.
I know, I know, it’s just one mistake. But if I didn’t see that mistake on page one, how many others didn’t I see? And aren’t we all just a human chain unto ourselves, defined by our own weakest link? Ironically, I’m about to release a book about embracing our truest self and then loving and living from that worthy place within us, and one missing ‘h’ threatened to send me into a shame spiral. Why?
Because shame never goes away.
Within each of us is this voice of shame—which begins whispering from a young, tender age—telling us we’re not good enough, convincing us our loneliness is our fault, and prodding us to prove our worth in a myriad of futile and destructive ways. We human beings are increasingly aware of this voice, and more and more of us are admitting we hear it. Which raises the question:
How do you quit hearing it?
The answer to that question is this: you don’t. If you believe it is possible to vanquish your shame completely, you will be sorely disappointed. Moreover, when your shame returns, your failure to silence it for good will become an additional source of shame. “What is wrong with me,” you will think, “why can’t I get past this?”
There is no getting past our shame completely. There is, only, the lifelong opportunity—presented to us every day and in every moment—to answer this question: Will you listen for the voice of grace instead?
Will you listen for the voice reassuring you that, while you might make mistakes, you are anything but a mistake?
The day after the-day-of-the-missing-h, my daughter arrived home from school and unloaded her backpack. She pulled out a paper cow she had constructed in class, and began telling me about it, concluding by turning the cow upside down, pointing at its belly, and declaring, “And that’s the gutter!”
It reminded me of the day last summer when she came in from outdoors holding her side and grimacing. She looked at me and said, “Daddy, I think I have a ramp.”
And it reminded me of countless days during which she has painted her fingernails or toenails with her momma and then come to me, proudly showing off her “pail nolish.”
When I make a mistake with my letters, I feel shame. But when Caitlin makes a mistake with her letters, I feel affection. I see a little girl who is way more than the sum of her mistakes and way stronger than her weakest links. While some consonants may go missing, her worthiness stays put. When I tell her that, I become the voice of grace to her.
We all need a voice of grace like that, and here is the very, very good news: we all have one.
There is a voice of grace whispering within each of us, as well.
It’s harder to hear than the voice of our shame. After all, shame will speak as harshly and as sharply as it needs to speak in order to be heard. But the voice of grace isn’t interested in overwhelming you; it’s interested in wooing you. It isn’t a condemnation; it is an invitation.
The voice of grace whispering within you is an invitation to listen to the name you were given before all other names: Loveable.
How do you live beloved? At least in part, you choose over and over again to listen for the voice of grace. Until eventually, for a little while, it happens: the day-of-the-missing-shame.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
Connect with Kelly
Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.