Shifting from Shame to Compassion

April 9, 2020

“We are not walking this path alone, building spiritual muscles, climbing the ladder to become more perfect. Rather, we are discovering the truth of our relatedness through belonging to these bodies and emotions, to each other, and to this whole natural world. As we realize our belonging, the trance of unworthiness dissolves." —Tara Brach

You are beautiful and worthy of love. At a youth summer camp called Quuest in the Black Forest outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado, this statement became the camp’s mantra. It was meant to be a buoy, to our youth, many of whom felt trampled by the world outside of their UU communities. Quuest had become a place of refuge and spiritual nourishment to these teens. And, this mantra became life-affirming to many.

You are beautiful and worthy of love. Jenny Finn, one of our sensational workshop leaders, and an expert in somatic movement, helped the community explore this paradigm through breathing exercises, group dance, and pair shared conversations. The room pulsed with the sound of music, stomping feet, and beating hearts.

You are beautiful and worthy of loveInitially, heads low and bowed, shame clung to these teens like a dark cloud. There was so much to cleanse from each group member’s respective spirits—the shame of perceived failure, of not enoughness, of being vulnerable, shame from folx who felt they existed on the margins of society. You could see it in their beginning steps, heavy and weary that, over time, transitioned to light, graceful jumps and laughter. I witnessed many tears through the course of that week together, and a waterfall of them during the movement workshop. Soulful sobbing shook some of the cobwebs loose. It opened doors. And the fresh air of compassion rushed in.

This group learned through a week of being together, of committing to being present, and to bowing to the sacred beauty in each of us, that each day, each moment, we might choose to live differently. We could choose to reject shame and fully realize that each and every one of us is beautiful and worthy of love.

Great spirit at the heart of all... All encompassing love that surrounds us…

In these times of trial, stress, togetherness, and hope, may we each find that little voice within that lifts up our dignity, our beauty, our magnificence, and cleanses us in your tender, compassionate embrace.

YOU are beautiful and worthy of love. Always and forever. Amen.


Spiritual Reflections


  • I Know This Rose Will Open, STLT #396

  • Meditation on Breathing, STJ #1009


  • An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by The Dalai Lama


About the Author

Eric Bliss

Eric Bliss, Pacific Western Region Youth and Emerging Adult Ministry Specialist, is a native of Knoxville, TN, where he grew up attending both Westside Unitarian Universalist and Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Churches.

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