Last weekend I spent time with some lovely women from a church nearby. It was an encouraging few days together and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be with them. I often refer to myself as a writer and that title comes fairly easily these days. But there is not a lot of time to think when you’re up on your feet, not to mention no delete button on the side of my face, so when I am asked to speak I am always very careful before I say yes. I would much rather listen.

I don’t expect you to pay attention to my calendar at all, but if you were to you would discover that the week before I prepare to speak, this sacred writing space grows ever empty. It takes every living ounce of courage and prayer to get me to a place of readiness before an event. It isn’t stage-fright, as over the years I believe I have grown to feel fairly comfortable in my own skin in front of people. I don’t have to imagine crowds wearing underwear. More, it is a sense of responsibility, a weighty understanding that I have been trusted to speak truth, to share honestly, and to lean my weight heavy on God.

And even though grace has been a game-changer for me, even though I walk most days to a rhythm of understanding that my life belongs to another and He is very fond of me, I still have to fight off the voice in my head before I speak to groups of women. And that voice says very clearly and without hesitation, Who do you think you are? When I try to hold on to my own life, when I am unwilling to let go of my try-hard efforts, when I have my sights set on outcomes rather than moments, I question and doubt and grab hold of insecurities.

If I allow myself to go very far down that road, it generally leads to an answer: You should be ashamed of yourself. Thankfully, I don’t sit there long anymore. I know truth and I fight with appropriate weapons. But when you begin to question your identity, the answer will always lead to shame. And we point our finger at ourselves and name ourselves disgraceful.

Shame discounts grace.

Shame is an agent of death.

Never speak shame into the life of another.

Never tell her she should be ashamed of herself. Never tell yourself that, either.

Should is a bully. Don’t give him power.

Speak life. Share compassion. Receive grace. And handle yourself tenderly.