Hiding the Real Me: Ron & Nan Deal
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Nan DealNan Deal is the co-founder of Connor's Song, a non-profit organization that she and her husband founded in honor of their son Connor Lee Deal who died at the age of 12 in 2009. In cooperation with the Touch A Life Foundation, Connor's Song run Connor Creative Art Center in Ghana, West Africa, a facility that provides hope and healing through art therapy for almost 100 trafficked children rescued from the fishing industry in Ghana. Nan, a school teacher, and her husband, Ron, live in Little Rock,...more
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
“I feel like I’m always holding back the real me.” Counselor Ron Deal knows shame can keep us fake, isolated, and voiceless. He also knows the way out.
Hiding the Real Me: Ron & Nan Deal
Dave: One of the things I didn’t understand when we first got married, and it really frustrated me is I would tell you how beautiful you were and how I appreciated your beauty, and you almost every time, if I remember right, were like “No, I’m not.”
Ann: I did. I didn’t believe you.
Dave: And I literally thought, “You’re kidding,” because I was like, “Of course you know how beautiful you are. Look in the mirror. You’re gorgeous.” And you kept saying it, and I’d get frustrated, and then I reacted so poorly. I was like, “I’m not going to say it anymore because you just pooh pooh it.” Then it hit me. I don’t know what year. It was like, “Oh, my goodness. You really don’t believe you’re beautiful.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Well, it’s interesting. There’s always a story behind the story, because when I was 16, I was a cheerleader, and it was a big day because we were going to have our pictures taken for the football program. We were all getting ready at my friend’s house, and you know, I walked in my friend’s house and my friend’s mom said, “Oh, Ann, you look so cute today.” I said, “Oh, thanks.” So we all got ready.
We walked out the door to take our pictures, and I forgot something, so I came back inside, and I heard my friend’s mom and my friend’s sister talking as I was grabbing my—I think it was a brush. I heard my friend’s sister say, “I can’t believe you told Ann she’s cute. She is so ugly.” And her mom said, “I know, but she tries hard.” And I picked up my brush and I walked out the door to smile for the pictures.
Boy, you talk about feeling ugly and unworthy and full of shame. I also felt like, “Oh, when people tell me things that are nice, they’re just lying.” Every time you said that, I would flash back to that moment and think, “Protect your heart. Protect your heart. It’s not true. He’s probably just lying.”
Dave: I did not understand the depth—
Ann: —of shame.
Dave: —of shame you carried, and it was real. I think we all have a sense of that. We have Ron and Nan Deal back in the studio today. I’m not going to say, “Well, we’ve got Ron and Nan. They’ve got a bunch of shame, too, so they’re in here.
Ron: You could say that.
Ann: We all do.
Dave: We’re so glad you’re here because we started a conversation yesterday about shame, and today we’re going to take it a little farther.
Ron: I interviewed Dr. Curt Thompson for the FamilyLife Blended®podcast, and he is an expert on shame and how it impacts us spiritually as well as relationally and emotionally. One of the things I’ve learned from Curt is that when somebody is vulnerable with a piece of their heart in their life, something that has brought them shame in the past, that those are moments—
What brings healing in that moment, what can bring healing is for somebody to just not push it away but to lovingly respond and simply say, “I see you, and I’m sorry about that, and I’m here, and even though you just shared that part of you that you’re really ashamed of, I’m not leaving.” And so Ann—
Nan: Yes, I was just about to say—
Ron: —we’re not leaving.
Nan: —I am so sorry that happened to you.
Ann: Isn’t that funny? It was so long ago, and it still can bring tears to my eyes.
Ron: Yes. As we said yesterday on the broadcast, it’s literally embodied in you. That’s what shame does. It takes up residence in us, so there’s a memory and a feeling and a thought of unworthiness that’s all attached to that. It’s terrible, and it makes us think if other people think that stuff too, that they’re not going to be moving toward us. They’re not going to care about us, that it’s all pretend, as you said. They’re lying and it’s just pretend, and I really can’t trust this relationship.
We don’t think any less of you. Just know that we’re here and we’ll continue in friendship with you, even knowing what we now know about that part of your heart and your life. And of course the person who has done this best in history is our Lord.
Ron: I can’t wait to share this clip with everybody today. Curt’s going to be talking about how Jesus did this, because this has implication for me as a parent, for me as a husband, for me as a friend, as a leader.
Curt: One story that jumps to my mind immediately is Jesus, in John’s Gospel, in chapter four, with the Samaritan woman.
Ron: I love that story.
Curt: Yes. There are several maneuvers in the dialogue, but one of the maneuvers He brings to the table that she just doesn’t see coming. “Go and bring your husband,” and she has no idea where this is headed. What He’s saying is, “Go get the part of you you’re ashamed of, the part that I know that when these words come out of my mouth, you’re going to tell me a story that is going to try to stiff arm me.” But He wants the part of her that is thirsty, right?
Curt: And she says, “Oh, I’m not married.” Jesus just slipped the noose, and then, “Of course you’re not married,” and then He wades into her shame. He doesn’t wait for her to go someplace else and get it cleaned up and bring it back to Him all neat and tidy. He wades into it; He sees it, and He comes for it. What is really difficult is that we don’t have a lot of practice being in places where it is the explicit intention of the relationships in that system to come and find other people’s shame.
This is a part of why we are here, so when Jesus meets Peter on the beach in John 21, if I’m Peter I’m like, “Hey, wait a minute. I thought we were supposed to have a confidential psychotherapy session, in the privacy of your office. I didn’t think I was going to have it in the waiting room.” No. Jesus is going to wade right into it. “Do you love me?”
Ron: This is after Peter has denied Him three times, after the resurrection, that’s the context.
Curt: Right. But also, after Peter somehow behaviorally has decided that “I guess I’m not going to fish for men. I’m just going back to the boat,” which is what he’s doing. He swims back to shore, and everything looks great, right? Jesus sets it all up. With the woman, it’s “Hey, let’s talk about water.” “Peter, let’s have breakfast.”
Curt: And in the asking, “Do you love Me?” of course there is the implied statement that Peter has to decide, “What is Jesus really saying? What’s the statement behind the question? Is Jesus saying, ‘I know what you’ve done?
Ron: Yes. “I know what you’ve done and you’re a horrible person, and I’m calling you out.”
Curt: Right. “To just make sure that everybody here doesn’t have any doubt.”
Ron: No. Just like the woman at the well, that was not the purpose.
Curt: Right. No. And Peter deflects, right? Well of course you do. Of course you do. And then we read the last time, and Peter was grieved in his heart that Jesus asked him yet a third time, “Do you love Me?” It’s easy, I think for me, easy for most to read that text and say, “Well, come on. What do you mean?” I’m thinking, “Oh, my grief is not just that He has asked. My grief is that He has put His finger on my grief.”
He's opened the door and basically said, “Look. You said that you love Me. Let’s just be clear in front of everybody here, all of the other disciples. You still believe that you don’t. There’s the part of you that knows you don’t.” If I’m Peter I’m like, “Okay, fine. Are you happy now? Can we just admit, look, I threw You under the bus six weeks ago. Is this what You’re looking for? Fine. Maybe I’ll just go back to the boat.”
We have to remember that Jesus doesn’t say to Peter, “I’m just checking to make sure that you’ve got those extra eight points on your test.” Jesus says, “I have work for you to do. I have sheep for you to tend. You’re still harboring shame about what happened six weeks ago, and I don’t want that to get in the way of the work that I have for you to do. I want you to know. We’re all going to know that we all know that I know that you’ve got this shame, and we’re not leaving that alone.”
“We’re coming for this, because if we don’t, you will forever still be burning energy containing and managing that shame, and that will be energy that will not be available for you and Me to co-create those good works that I have waiting for you from before the foundation of the world.”
Ron: So here’s what I hear you saying: In our shame we live in the fear of other people recognizing what we’re ashamed of, and thus becoming more isolated, so we tend to withdraw. We’re afraid of the face turning away from us, but what God does, what Jesus did with the woman at the well and with Peter was, even though the shame was there and He put a finger on it, He says to them, “I’m not turning away from you.”
“I’m coming toward you. I’m coming to you. We’re going to deal with this. I’m not abandoning you. You are not unworthy. You are not nothing, of no value. You are of great value, in fact, and so we’re not going to continue to let shame get in the way.”
Curt: Right. In fact, we would say, and this is part of what Good Friday is all about, the crucifixion. God is saying, “It’s not just about this thing we call sin. It is about the fundamental, embodied right-to-the-history-of-the-end-of-the-earth experience of shame that I’m going to take on in My very embodied experience of being beaten, naked, and put on a cross. There will be no shame that I don’t know.”
Curt: “And so when I come for you, Peter, in six weeks on the beach, you need to know I know what this is like and I’m not afraid of it. I’m not afraid of how much shame you have,” which means “I don’t care how much you do have. You can’t make Me leave the room.” The challenge for us is whether or not we will stay.
Curt: When we read in Mark’s gospel, his version in 10 Mark, of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, it’s the only part of the three synoptics where we read about this story. “And Jesus looked at him and loved him, and said, ‘There’s one thing you lack.’” “You’re working your tail off. All I’m wanting you to do is to unburden yourself. Your wealth isn’t the problem; it’s your incessant conviction that you have to have the extra eight percent on your test.”
“Yes, it’s gotten you a lot of wealth, but it also means that you’re working so hard because of your shame that you don’t have space for Me to love you.” In fact, when he leaves, we would say, “If I could miss the look of Jesus’ love, I’ll miss the look of yours. I’ll miss the look of anybody else’s.” Your friend would very easily miss your look of love.
And this is the hard thing, right? I know that if you’re coming for me, there is this moment where I’m going to have to stay in the room and allow You to gaze upon me.
Ron: I have to be seen, right? I have to be willing to be seen, to take the risk of being known. I know I’ve experienced this in my own life. If I’m hiding some part of me, then I, even though you may know a lot about me, you don’t know that part of me, and so there’s always a part of me that’s hiding. There’s always a part that’s trying to stay one step ahead of what you know about me, which means the shame still is a barrier.
Ron: It’s no wonder that that statement in Genesis two is still profound: “They were naked and unashamed.” After that, we’re undoing ourselves through our sin and through carrying of shame, and our unwillingness to risk and be known. I see this affecting marriages. “I don’t want to be known that much. I want to be known a little bit.”
I see this impacting people in blended family situations where they have felt the shame or the judgment of other Christians, often within the church, over this divorce and your past, and “Somehow I just don’t feel living up to what God wants for us.”
So that second-class thing just perpetually lives on inside them, so much so that they don’t want to go to church, or “Maybe I go, but I just stay over here and not really get involved, and I never volunteer. I would never actually go to a small group where people are talking about this part of their life, because then you’re going to know that about me, and you might turn your face away from me.” It’s so debilitating when we continue to allow it to pervade our life.
Dave: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today, and a conversation Ron Deal had on the FamilyLife Blended Podcast with Doctor Curt Thompson. We have Ron and Nan in the studio. What do you guys think? There was so much there, I don’t even know where to start.
Ann: Yes. Nan, I want to hear from you, because it’s such a treat to have you with us. You’ve been sharing parts of your story. What goes through your mind?
Nan: What goes through my mind is I hate shame. I was shamed for a long time in my past. I felt shame in my marriage in seasons, and I feel like my voice was stifled because I believed the lies of shame. There’s so much that I could have done. Now, I know I’m doing it now; thank God for that. But I just hate shame. It debilitates us.
Ann: Yes. It’s crippling.
Nan: It isolates us. It keeps us from doing what God has called us to do, and to bring glory to Him. I so relate to the woman at the well. I was that woman. I did a lot of things in the dark of the night, and yet the Lord came for me just like He did that woman.
Ann: Went out of His way—
Nan: Went out of His way.
Ann: —for her and for us.
Nan: If I could say anything to the listener, it’s not believing those lies anymore, not letting the enemy get a foothold or take up residence. I remember one clear, distinct moment in our marriage. Early on in ministry, I’d gotten messages, “You didn’t grow up in the church.” Shame. “You’re really not minister’s wife material.” Shame. So I felt like, “Okay, I don’t have a voice here. I shouldn’t speak.” Also the messages of “Your husband is so amazing. He has this master’s degree. He’s the expert.” Shame.
So I remember early on Ron really wanting us to speak together, and after we would get up to speak, he would say, “Hey.” Sorry if I’m throwing you under the bus, honey.
Ron: That’s okay.
Nan: Trying not to shame you here.
Ron: I have some shame behind what I said to you.
Nan: Exactly. And he said, “Hey, you shouldn’t do it that way.” Instead of taking that as constructive criticism, I had a truckload of shame from day one of my life. “You’re not good enough. You’ll never amount to anything.” So, I shut down, and I said, “Forget it. I’m not going to speak with you.”
Ann: I’m out.
Nan: Think about how many years I could have been used by God, but I went into the closet, so to speak.
Nan: I allowed the enemy to reign there, and his truth was my truth. “I don’t have a voice. I don’t have a platform here.”
Ann: Oh, Nan.
Ron: It’s terrible.
Ann: It is terrible, and I love you—
Nan: I love you.
Ann: —and I see the gifts that God put in you, and you’re such a great communicator. We all fall into Satan’s traps, and yet I love that you’re talking about it now.
Nan: Yes, me too.
Ann: Because when we come out of hiding, it’s like Satan and the enemy and the world’s lies and our past, that grip starts to loosen.
Ron: You know, when we talked about Jesus is coming for our shame, it’s not to make us feel bad about ourselves.
Ron: It’s to say, “Look, I see this thing that has got you completely wrapped up on the inside, and you really can’t be who I’ve created you to be. So I’m coming for it, so that you will know that I love you in spite of all of that, so you will know that you’re completely naked, seen. I know you through and through. You’re not hiding anything, and I’m still here. I’m still coming for you.”
Ann: “And I’m never leaving.”
Ron: Right. Now the back story to what I said to Nan, that I now understand, is that I had this great need to perform, to do well in front of an audience, and for us, together, to do well together. So yes, there’s some little constructive criticism in there, but it was also, probably much more about I needed us to look a certain way, to act a certain way, for her to be a certain thing, so that—
Nan: It was shame.
Ron: That’s all of my shame. So now my shame’s pushing off shame onto her. Shamed people will shame people. It’s just this crazy cycle that we get in. I had to let Jesus come for my shame, meaning I had to start being honest and real and open about that, because that’s the only way I can see it for what it is, and I can finally say, “You know what? This doesn’t make me a horrible person. Jesus still loves me. He’s not leaving.”
Ron: Some people will leave you because of imperfections into our character or something about us.
Dave: But He doesn’t. One of the things Dr. Thompson said that is equally as true is will we stay?
Nan: Yes. It takes a lot of energy to stay. And courage.
Dave: Oh, yes. It is one thing to know my spouse isn’t leaving, or my friend, or my parent, but when I feel that shame, I leave.
Dave: Even though they may not be leaving, I don’t want to live with myself. I won’t walk on the stage again, or I’ll just—
Ann: You just shut down emotionally.
Dave: You have to embody the identity that Christ says about you to be able to stay. Otherwise you’re like, “I’m not worthy enough to stay here.”
Dave: And we remove ourselves, and we miss out on God’s desire for our life. I think so many of us miss, because of shame.
Ann: John 8:36: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” I have this passion. I hear this stuff. I see so many women. I’m working with women, generally, that are in bondage. I see this greatness in them, and I’m like “I want that person that God created, the true identity, for you to come out.” I wish we were doing a better job at the church, because sometimes we walk in the church, and we can feel even more burdened with shame because we’re not measuring up. That’s on us. We’re carrying our own shame and assumptions.
Dave: I don’t claim to know exactly what Jesus meant by that, but it’s interesting that He didn’t just say, “If the Son has set you free, you shall be free.” He says, “Free indeed.”
Dave: It’s almost like He’s hinting at “There’s a freedom and you may have tasted a little bit of that, but you don’t know even the half of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about free indeed.” I think it’s the shame, it’s the sin that’s captured us, it’s the lies we live with. He’s saying, “No. I can set you completely free, to a whole new life that you can’t even imagine if you will just allow Me to give you what I can give you in Christ.”
Ann: So Ron, what’s our action point?
Ron: Well, I know in our next broadcast we’re going to spend some time talking about this staying and letting Jesus come for our shame, and how we as the church, and how husbands and wives and parents can try to help one another wrestle with our own shame. I think the action point is can I even admit it to myself? That’s the first thing. Let’s start with that today. Can I even admit it to myself that there’s a part of me that I am so embarrassed about, that I just want to hide from others.
It’s sort of this question: If they were to see what I know about me, what would happen? If you fill in that blank with “Well, bad things are going to happen. People aren’t going to like me. People are going to reject me. Somebody’s going to walk away. I wouldn’t have friends anymore.” That’s shame talking. You really don’t know whether any of that would happen, but you believe it would happen, so now I don’t give you a chance to stay.
I don’t give you a chance to see that part of me. I just keep hiding it, and now I’m constantly working. When Doctor Thompson talked about the emotional energy that it takes to hide those pieces of ourselves, that’s a lot of work.
Nan: Yes. I think another piece to the action point is confessional community. He’s really confessing her stuff at the well.
Nan: He’s also confessing Peter’s stuff, too. “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” three times, because “You denied me, you denied me, you denied me.” Confession of ourselves but in a community where it’s received—in a way you kind of confessed this hard thing that happened to you, and here we were. We were here to receive it. We didn’t run away. I think that’s a big piece.
Ron: It is. It is.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron and Nan Deal on FamilyLife Today.
Many couples in blended families struggle with shame, but the good news is you don’t have to. So join us for some encouragement at this year’s Blended and Blessed®live event and Livestream. You’ll hear from Ron and Nan Deal, John Trent, and other amazing speakers as well. The event is coming up on April 29th, and you don’t even have to leave home to attend. You can learn more under the show notes section on FamilyLifeToday.com.
Also, earlier this week we heard from author and speaker Heather Holleman. Her book is called Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison, which is the culture we live in today. We want to send you a copy as our thanks when you partner financially with FamilyLife. Your partnership helps make conversations like the one you heard today actually possible, conversations that families all over the country and really all around the world desperately need to hear.
So you can help more families today by giving at FamilyLifeToday.com, and we’ll send you Heather’s book as our thanks. Again, you can give at FamilyLifeToday.com, or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Join us again tomorrow as Dave and Ann talk with Ron and Nan Deal on how to get honest in your marriage, your relationships, and at your church in order to rid yourself of the shame that can often weigh you down. That’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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*Pre-recorded excerpts of Ron Deal with Dr. Curt Thompson are from the FamilyLife Blended® Podcast, Episode 72: Ridding Your Soul of Shame.
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