Stumbling Toward Wholeness, Part One

This week, Dan is joined by Andrew Bauman, mental health therapist and author of Stumbling Toward Wholeness: How the Love of God Changes Us, a new book that offers a fresh perspective on shame, self-righteousness, and kindness in the story of the Prodigal Son.

Dan: “If there were a significant holiday rising in the future, this would be a really excellent gift to give.”

Andrew shares how, when he came here to The Seattle School 11 years ago to study under Dan, the categories of shame and self-contempt felt so real and so crucial. This book is an outgrowth of Andrew’s ongoing work to make those categories more tangible for his clients and others in his life. That work is also deeply personal for Andrew, informed by his own story and his own experiences with addiction, shame, and deep grief.

Andrew: “My shame had kept me silent. Which is a real indication of our shame—whatever we’re silent about is normally where our shame deeply resides.”

Dan: “I don’t think we can ever speak enough about the reality of shame.”

When Andrew first started writing about the Prodigal Son, his publishers were a bit daunted because it is such a familiar story. “We’ve heard it a thousand times,” says Andrew, “which is another way to say we never hear it at all.” But what Andrew is inviting us to hear is something new, and something deeply relevant to the journey of healing. Andrew breaks down the characters into realms of being: the Son Realm, where we live in shame and self-hatred about our mistakes and shortcomings; the Elder Realm, where a the voice of judgement and entitlement keeps us from engaging our brokenness; and the Father Realm, where we enter into ever-deeper grief, joy, celebration—and, ultimately, the kindness that leads to repentance.

I don’t think we can ever speak enough about the reality of shame.

Dan: “How you’ve entered into that passage, particularly through the category of shame, is a new reading—and a new reading that invites our hearts into this real, significant war.”

We all exist at times in the first two realms, alternately embodying the voice of the prodigal, who says we are lower than the lowest of servants, and the voice of the elder brother, who says those broken parts of ourselves are beyond redemption and are not worthy of kindness. Stumbling toward wholeness, says Andrew, means wrestling with both of those voices, engaging both our shame and our self-contempt, in a way that moves us closer to the extravagant kindness of the father.

Dan: “I see it across the ambiance of our day: a movement toward more rage, more judgement, more contempt for people you differ with. And in that, a growing sense of entitlement. Between more contempt and more entitlement, it is a harsher, crueler day.”

Andrew: “With my deep southern Baptist upbringing, if I showed kindness to myself, it was equated as pride. For me to hate myself was, in a sense, blessed by my community as humility.”

Next week, Dan and Andrew will continue this conversation by discussing how religiosity so often keeps us stuck in the self-contempt of the Elder Realm, and what it means to step more fully into the Father Realm.