Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I have made a habit out of watching "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" while I eat lunch. Also, I just finished a paper on Asian Americans. So today, when there was this Chinese-American guy on the show, I couldn't help but to see the concept of "toxic shame" I read about pretty clearly. On the $25,000 question, he had a pretty good idea of what the answer was, but he ended up using his two remaining lifelines. The answer was what he thought in the beginning. When he won the $25,000, it seemed like he was more upset than happy, I think because he had wasted his lifelines. Meredith Vieira, the host, was basically comforting him: "You should be happy, you won $25,000!" Now, I think his reaction was understandable to an extent -- but after watching several episodes of this show (probably too many), his reaction seemed pretty abnormal. Usually the contestants are disappointed if they waste lifelines, but they get over it and are really happy -- sometimes to the point of being giddy -- when they win $25,000. It's almost as if he was preoccupied with the fact that he could have had done better -- not that that he had won $25,000. Toxic shame (a term I think first used by Pastor Ken Fong) is when we see our failures and mistakes not only as mistakes -- but as signs that there is something deeply wrong with us, that we are beyond redemption. We basically feel like we are the mistake. It comes off as humility -- but it's more of a false humility, a self-centered shame. The gospel is the paradox that indeed we are hopelessly flawed, yet at the same time we are completely loved and accepted through Christ by sheer grace. If we can't be happy when we win $25,000, how much harder is it for us to accept the immeasurable gift of grace?