Motivation–A Quaker Query

Fear, guilt, and shame–strong, toxic emotions that can motivate us to change, to move us to action or inaction. Fear, guilt, and shame can poison queer folks to live dishonestly, in the shadows, in tomb-like closets.

Fear, guilt, and shame can motivate good people, peace-loving liberal white Quakers to pursue diversity under the guise of justice, not fully recognizing the potential and quite probable exploitation of people of color in our efforts to integrate our white spaces.

Fear, guilt, and shame often has as it’s unspoken motivational statement, “I don’t want to be seen as one of those people!” (gay, racist, unevolved–fill in the blank…)

As we proceed with our initiatives, with our life choices,a helpful query might be, “Is this action a response to fear, guilt and shame or does it rise out of friendship, love, and justice? Or somewhat a muddled combination?”

This post has 9 Comments

  1. Alivia Biko on March 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    yeah huh.

  2. meredithjustice on March 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    So well put. Good for you, friend.

  3. Es on March 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    This has got me thinking about people who ‘mean well’.

  4. John Stephens on March 24, 2009 at 2:38 am

    “Is this action a response to fear, guilt and shame or does it rise out of friendship, love, and justice? Or somewhat a muddled combination?”

    I’m writing it in the margin of my book of discipline.

  5. Martin Kelley on March 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    And the correlary might be “are we doing this so others will think we’re ___?” (tolerant, orthodox, etc). I’ve seen a lot of tokenism in the name of diversity, using others to build our own reputations. It’s the fear that we’re maybe not enough if we’re just who we are. If we can accept ourselves we can accept others without quite so many mixed motivations.

  6. Liz Opp on March 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    The way I frame this question for myself is, Am I loving? If I am not in touch with the inward motion of Love, I do my best to wait and listen for more Guidance.

    In addition, sometimes 1 Corinthians 13 rises in my musings–and you know that I’m not particularly Bible-literate, so when something like this emerges, I pay attention.

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  7. Marshall Massey on March 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    If I may offer a gentle and friendly defense of fear, guilt and shame:

    It occurs to me that it was precisely those emotions that overcame David and helped motivate him to repent when Nathan confronted him on the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. (II Samuel 12) David’s repentance doesn’t seem to have been a bad thing.

    When Peter denied Christ three times, it was out of fear of human authority (which, I think, is the sort of fear that you criticize here) — but when he afterward felt ashamed, it was shame before God, and it would have been a terrible thing if instead he had been shameless. (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18)

    When the first Friends preached to the unconverted, they said that the first place we encounter the God of Christ and Israel is in the conscience, in that which reproves us for the wrongs we have done. That which reproves us for those wrongs, they sometimes called the Seed (Luke 8:4-15); but at other times they called it the Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3:2). What we initially feel when the Seed, the Voice in our hearts, reproves us for genuine wrongs we have done (e.g., lying, stealing, betrayal) is guilt, shame, and (if God is real to us) fear; although afterward, as we work the lesson through and change the way we live, we feel far better — cleansed, refined.

    When Fox was reproached with the label “Quaker”, he responded that everyone should tremble before the Lord. Why should they tremble? Don’t fear, guilt, and shame seem to be involved? To be a “Quaker” in the original sense, then, is to know those emotions before God.

    Agreed, such emotions aren’t always appropriate. Sometimes they arise out of hurtful, neurotic social programming. That’s what you’re talking about here, is it not?

    But I believe many people I have known have lived dishonestly, not because fear, guilt and shame are innately wrong, but rather because they have run away from such feelings, too weak to bow to the truths contained in those things, and too weak, also, to stand up to the falsehoods contained in them. The problem for those people has not been the fear, guilt and shame, but their answering weakness.

    I’d welcome hearing your response.

  8. bridgeout on March 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Excellent post! Excellent topic… so vital!
    I have found that fear and shame can be especially paralyzing emotions. Guilt… fair enough… if we’ve DONE something wrong, then accept the accountability for it and make amends. But fear and shame seem more about us BEING “bad” or less than. And those two often seem to be given to us… or a result of our encounters that have taught us that we ought to take on fear and shame. Not healthy. Self accountability is one thing, self loathing is another.
    I do like you last helpful query especially!

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