The Soul of Shame

F*ck the shame!” – my psychiatrist

This is a direct quote from my CHRISTIAN psychiatrist that I’ve been seeing for the last 7 years. He is in love with Jesus and has his own shame story and, well, he just gets it. He even wrote a book on it.

The Soul of Shame


Whether you grew up in a household that used shame as a manipulator or you are a Christian that is wondering why you feel so confused by the contrariness of Jesus vs. the church. What I mean by that is the story of Jesus is love, love, love. The story that we sometimes here from our churches, other Christians and religious parents is a completely different text and one that I have struggled with.

I grew up going to church with very religious parents, but I knew that something did not fit. I knew that I felt terrible going to church, I hated being told that God was not going to bless me if I missed my curfew and the over all sense that I was starting from a place of unworthiness in God’s eyes and doing it all wrong. I am convinced that this is not what it means to be under the umbrella of God.

I go back to the story.

As I sat with tears of frustration in his office once more, confused about all the work I have been doing to carve out a healthy & happy way of living, while at the same time I was feeling hatred and mistreatment from my God-fearing mother. This is a question that often comes up because I always felt like she was the one that was closer to God than I was – she prayed more, but she judged more. HMMM.

What my psychiatrist said to me next would change the way I looked about my whole shame story. He told me that he knew someone around my same age whose work was to show, share and teach love and people were so uncomfortable with the way he was teaching that they rallied against him and murdered him. His name was Jesus.

Goose bumps, right?

This is why his story is so darn amazing. His message was completely different than what the churches were teaching…and he told the priests that…..and they hated him. How could you hate someone teaching love? My thought is that people hate what they do not know. People whose belief defines them in the context of their own lives hate differences. I was different than my mom. I wanted different things. I think differently. I built my life differently. I believe that she does hate me for this and it is very scary for me if I could pick one emotion.

But, “F*ck the shame!”

Jesus gets it and I am living a life filled with so much love that He has provided. I’m pretty sure this is all that matters. Now if only I could remember this every time I feel shame creeping in.

…somewhere in the middle

Hi Friends!

I want to welcome all of you that have recently decided to read and write on The Safe Nest. I have noticed a boost in readership and some of you have probably noticed that I’ve been a bit quite. I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today and after a few ideas I decided to just tell you how I’ve been feeling. In the hopes, of course, that you feel comfortable telling me how you feel.

I was posting often here until I started feeling a little funny. I let myself sit with that feeling and tried not to brush it away, but just kind of explore it. I realized maybe a month in that what I was feeling was a bit, over-exposed. There is a part of me that wants to be known and understood and wants to connect with all of you out there that feels the same way. But, there is also a part of me that feels that I am spilling my guts and may have to deal with what I’ve put out there at a later date. I was starting to feel kind of naked in a sense. It’s one thing when you are in a room of people and you feel safe. It is another thing to say how you are feeling in a world-wide room and are not sure if you are safe. I was confident for a time, but grew to be not so sure. I needed to find a spot in the middle.

I talked to my therapist about this idea at the beginning of the summer. She taught me that there was a place where we over-reveal and a place that we under-reveal and the ideal position is to be somewhere in the middle. I think this medium point is different for every person. I realized that I need to find a place in my middle where I felt like I could share, but without throwing myself under the bus and was too open to criticism. But, I also want to live bravely and often feel a push to let people in so I can feel a deeper connection. I am not content skimming on the surface. I want to know people deeply and I want to be known. I realize that this is a balance.

In the past I used to see things as very black and white: I am this. I do this. I want this. I do not want that. I am not that.

People are so much more grey than this. There are so many more colors in the rainbow than just black and white and our thinking should be the same. It’s not as comfortable for me to live in the gray and not define myself, but I know that this is where I want to land so that I can be open to myself growing and changing – and so that I can be open to others around me.

So, I start this phase in the middle, where I hope you will meet me. I honor myself in my middle. I set my pace here and if I need to move and change, as I will, I will move and change.





I am 38 and somewhere in the back of my head I think that when I reach 40 I will be able stop. And by stop I mean stop making decisions based on other people’s opinions of me, stop questioning what I say, stop doubting myself and stop beating myself up by feeling not good enough. STOP!

Basically, I am waiting for the time and age when I can start answering only to myself. Does this ever happen?

If I were so bold to give myself a compliment, it would be that I actually have good instincts. I have a very strong gut and my Dear Husband would actually say that I am brazen at times. However, not many people see this side of me. In fact, I usually let my smiley, give-the-shirt-off-my-back, steam-roll-over-me-if-you-need-to-because-I-don’t-mind self be shown. I thought that was what I was meant to do as a good girl and a good Christian.


The Jesus I am now learning about had good boundaries, often put the brakes on and didn’t let himself be steam-rolled. Generous, yes. A push over, no. NO!

Just to be even more transparent here, my fear is that if I am so bold to say things like, “No, that doesn’t work for me” or “No, I don’t want to do that” or “No, I see things differently,” then people will abandon me. I’m truly afriad that if I am not aligned with another’s thinking then I will be left with no friends, no family, no support. This has actually happened many times to me with people that were born to support me and the residue is real and painful. I’m still not over it. But, that does not mean that this is how the rest of the world works.

Resentment always rears his ugly head when I choose a path that my gut is not saying yes to. I will play along for a while and smile through it, but if I know it is not a good fit for me then after a while I will get, well, pissed. I am just too scared when I FEEL off to SAY I feel off. Often times my feeling does not match up with my doing and I often get lost when I start thinking about other’s feelings over my own. That’s what’s going on. I’m scared to let out that little feeling because I don’t always think I have a good enough reason. I know in my head that any reason is good enough. But, I tend to believe that if I do not have the best reason then I should just go with the flow. Like I have to be bleeding on the street to feel justified in saying no. Like I have to be in labor. OH! That actually happened and the people that I aligned myself to never came to save me. So, hmmmm, the conclusion is: not speaking my mind really does not keep me safe.

Anyone else out there know what I’m talking about?

When does this stop? I kid, but I am hoping it just stops all together at 40 and I can say “Screw it. I’m going to listen to myself.” I am practicing. I am working up to it. I am trying to carve out a different, healthier way of living. It is the repetition that I fight against, the abuse and now the self-abuse. Every day is a battle field and I show up ready to fight.



Doubt Means Don’t


Oh how I miss Oprah. I miss the little recharge I would get at looking at the clock and seeing if it was 4:00. I miss hearing about what was on the following day. I miss the celebrity interviews, the book talks and most importantly the take-away lessons that I LEARNED from the show.

We all know she had a few key phrases that she would like to repeat to herself and her guests. I adopted many of them, but there are a few that I use ALL.THE.TIME. This is one of them:

“Doubt means don’t.”


Do you know how twisted we can all get when deciding if we should do something, say something or make a move? I know there are times that we definitely need to push ourselves and there are times that we need to express ourselves, but some decisions lay in that in-between, grey area where we really do not know.

Doubt means don’t.

I said this to myself in the shower this morning, in fact. It was so easy to say and it gave me the answer that I needed immediately. I was doubting getting involved in something when this phrase came to my head. To me, it also mean to sit with the decision and not rush into it. If I am doubting if it is the right thing for me, then I am not going to say yes, I am going to sit with it and have faith that the answer will come. Doing this makes me feel much more in control when I have a decision to make. I’m not putting it off and I’m not saying yes or no. I’m pausing and waiting for the answer.

Try it the next time you are unsure. It has a very calming affect. Then let me know if it works for you.

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Share #92


Dear Christen,

I can’t believe I am actually going to write this.  I have been struggling today and feeling very down and I get an e-mail about your new site, I didn’t even know about it.

Well anyway, three years ago I was diagnosed with MS.  I look perfectly healthy, thankfully I can walk and I don’t appear to be ill but I have MS plaques all over my brain.  I have been in denial for three years about this but I cannot be in denial any longer.  I have feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, depressed and I know it is from the MS.  No one seems to understand, family or friends because I look so healthy they just assume I am not sick.   I guess I am good at hiding it.  When I am around my family I do not let it show.  But I have lots of memory problems, forgetting even very important events, I have to write down everything.  I also feel very unsure of myself now.  I have a business selling on line and it was doing very well for the last year but for the last six months I can’t stay focused and can’t even seem to work the business, which consists of buying and selling.  It is not hard, it is time consuming and takes concentration to make sure I can make a profit.  But I am constantly unsure of anything anymore and so I just don’t buy which means my inventory is shrinking and my business is dying.  I know what to do to be successful with this business because I have done it before.  But I just can’t seem to get it together, I am depressed and I don’t care.  But I really want to care.

I have no reason to be depressed that is why I believe it is the MS.  I do have a supportive husband but he really doesn’t understand the scope of the situation or what he can do.  So I just silently struggle, alone, not having anyone to share with.  I really hate having pity parties when I know there are others who have it much worse than me.  But it doesn’t stop me.  I can’t seem to get over this and get moving and start being productive again.

I know this is a little scattered but basically I am depressed, lonely and feeling hopeless and I don’t like it and there is no real reason I should feel this way, which makes it so much worse.

Thank you for opening up and sharing your heart, Dear One. I hear you. I hear your pain and isolation. Please comment and let us encourage our reader.

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by christen m. bensten

Feeling safe is a big preoccupation for me. I want to feel comfortable and know what is around the next corner at all times. I want to surround myself with people that make me feel accepted and I want to try to fend off any events in life that will cause me or my family pain. I can’t help but think of the little purple creature in the movie Inside Out.


I’m right there with you, Pixar. I get it.

But, there is a part of me that surprises this little purple person that makes so many of my decisions. It is the part of me that is dying to participate and to play and to try new things and to trust that all will be okay and that maybe it will be more than okay and I will actually have a fun experience and grow from it! Whew. Isn’t that what we all want? To be able to play and try new things without getting burned? I know we all know people that approach situations with ease and trust. I am in awe and totally don’t get it. I empathize with the group of us that are calculated and need to really analyze the risk before moving out into the deep waters of adventure.

I am pretty sure that God did not design us to live a life of fear. I think many times when we are in a vulnerable place and about to make a decision that others sometimes project their fear or trepidation onto us in the well-intentioned guise of care and concern. I think I was often warned against trying new things because of the anxiety I saw around me. But that little flicker inside of us, that bit of joy, that says, “Hmmm. This could be a really wonderful thing,” does she ever win out?

This has been a big year of change in my life and I am working on receiving many blessings, albeit changes. I can plan and try to foresee speed bumps along the way, but we all know that life throws unfair curve balls. I  know that there is a little fire in me that, even though I feel fearful and scared a ka-zillion times throughout the day, I also am dying to see what new lands lay ahead of me.

I am pretty sure that God wants us moving. Just look at nature and how it evolves and changes. Look at how our very own bodies grow up and grow old. We could not stand still even if we wanted to. We are meant to take a step out. Maybe it is just a baby step for you today. Maybe it is an idea that you’ve been sitting on for a while and you are waiting for your spouse or friend to approve of you doing it. Maybe you are paralyzed by the judgmental eyes that you felt from a long time ago. Maybe you are afraid of failing and that you will look like a fool. Maybe you are just not sure you can do it all. Let me tell you that even this fear that you think is keeping you so safe, it is not. If your fear is working overtime and keeping you at a stand still then it is not keeping you safe. It may actually start to make you feel resentful and bitter and tied up in knots. So, you might as well try moving forward on that scary decision in your life and your business. You might as well see what the grass feels like under your toes. Standing still will only keep you safe for so long before it eats away at you. We are meant to move. I encourage you to step out today. Push past the fear even just a tiny inch. Make one movement forward and then tell me how you feel.

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Share #132


Share #132 (In response to previous Share #276)

Dear Christen,

Well I was also that senior girl that moved in with her grandmother moms mother to get away from all of what it seems you (from previous reader share #276) went through but as my mother. It was so hard as a child to see my parents do what they did to each other because of the drinking, but my mother stayed even when her children begged her to leave him. She loves him she would say but we all grew up and went on with our lives. but it still plays over and over daily what I seen as a child and has at times really messed my life up but everyday I try to make it the best I can. my parents are still together he no longer drinks and she still makes him number one. I know it sounds strange but I still love my parents with all my heart I feel sorry for them. Their parents were not there for them I never remember any family members trying to help mom or dad with his drinking and they knew mom was having a rough time. His family and hers just left it alone they knew things were not right. so I say to you the best you can do is tell your children that your sorry that you didn’t do something sooner but your stronger now and let’s talk about it and it will get better. I know your life seems all messed up but remember that the kids are sometimes emotionally messed up more than you are. You will find away to get your bills and others things in order. The best for you is go and get help for yourself and be there for your children let them tell you how they felt and it will help you in return. It is not a pleasant situation but if you all support each other you will get through it. You did the best you could at the time I always tell my mom marriage and children and life doesn’t come with an instruction book. She is and my dad also are good people it’s just they were lost at that time in their life ! I wish you well get the support you need and ask for help and you will make it and learn to enjoy your new life.

Thank you, Reader, for your response. Now, how can we support YOU?

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…brene brown love.

Can we just talk about Brene Brown for a minute and how she has become such a guiding light for me and a ka-zillion other people? You may have heard her name recently or seen her on a morning show because her new book, Rising Strong, just came out.


I will caveat this by saying I am about half way though and soaking up all the nuggets of truth will take some alone time, which I have none of at the point pre-school. But, there are a few points that I have found myself churring on in other parts of my day after reading.

This is one of my favorite quotes:


Just like Dear Therapist (DT), Brene challenges the reader to be curious about why we may be reacting or having emotion around an event, a comment, a person, a memory, etc. Like, we should say to ourselves, “Huh, why do I all of a sudden feel so bad about myself?” The beginning of healing is found by being curious. AND IT IS MUCH HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS. You have to catch yourself before spiraling down into worry and angst. “Huh, I’m feeling really sad after running into that person at the grocery store.” “Oh, I am beating myself up about my weight after getting my InStyle in the mail today.” “Just by thinking about my cancer scare last year I feel like I’m going to throw up. Look at that.” The beginning of healing and rising strong is in the curiosity.

Brown says that the first step is in the noticing. We don’t even have to worry about fixing or finding a solution. We start by getting curious about what is happening in our bodies and minds when we experience things that trigger us. DT explains that if we can catch ourselves in the act, then we can carve out new loops in our synaps – new trails in our brains that will not cause us to go down the same, familiar and awful paths that can lead to depression and anxiety.

Brown suggests that once you start getting curious, know that you are turning in when tuning in. You are getting ready to rumble with some of these triggers. This may mean that eventually you may choose to do things differently or change relationships or seek help – all of which are real “shit starters.” And we all know life can be shit; a real mess so don’t be afraid of getting into the nitty-gritty if it is going to transform your life for the good.

I started to rumble about 6 years ago when I committed to seeking therapy weekly for issues that I knew I wanted to work out; issues that were making me miserable and wanting to jump in front of a moving metro train most mornings. I was living in fear, insecurity, depression, anger, angst and more fear. But, things did not all of a sudden iron out once I began to work through my shit. In fact, this is when the rumble really started – when I got curious and eventually said, “Oooo, I hate feeling this way. What could I do differently?”

Rumble, rumble.

Rumbling makes all the behaviors that used to make up you come into question. This also means relationships with family and friends. Who the fuck is this girl that is changing the rules of the game and acting so….different? Where is the compliant, sweet girl that we thought we always knew? Why is she acting this way? Well, she was hiding under all the fear and distain for herself and now she is RUMBLING!!!!!

Ah, such freedom in the rumble even though it is a shit starter. It means that I can face my story and relationships in a different way. The shake up is awful and hard and many times I don’t want to do it, but, to turn into my own truth is liking drinking the coolest, most refreshing water. It is like doing yoga and breathing and feeling new all at once. It is touching the ocean for the first time. It is the first fresh peach of the summer. It is doing everything that I was meant to. It is holy ground. It is love and it is Jesus and it is finding the deepest part of me; that part that is so intent on seeking truth and living love that all those Philistines  and people that think they understand what truth is and what you are are all shaken down.

Ah, no. I will show you me in the rumble and afterwards, I will know that I am fully me and I am worthy and I too am worth kicking up dust for.


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SHARE #276

images (5)


Here goes.

married 31 yrs-down the drain. husband is a full blown addict. alcohol this time.
he left again 3rd time to go back to his family so they can take care of him. good luck.
3 kids, 30, 24 and 22. GREAT KIDS.
Oldest son married aug1
middle son moved across country Cali. i’m in FL.
daughter moved to virginia last week.
Mom passed away from glio brain tumor in Dec.
Filing for bankruptcy
filing for divorce when that is over but husband will not corporate
my car is slowly dying 210000 miles on it
loathe my job
hours have been cut
no health insurance
cut sick time to zero
not able to take a week vacation in over 6 years, Dr i work for wont allow
haven’t had a raise in 6 years, just because he doesn’t want to
3 months behind on my mortgage.
husband hadn’t worked most of last year so 0 in bank account
dealing with the path of abuse that comes with alcoholism is terrible
gained way to much weight
having to fake being happy when i just want to pull the covers over my head
washing machine on last leg
getting calls from in laws that finally realize its not my fault their son is an addict
he had a seizure, er, detox and now rehab. AGAIN. he was found down by a creek passed out all around him beer and vodka bottles/he was there for about 5 hours. terrible
the guilt of not being able to do anything.
feel like why i didn’t leave 10 years ago.
guilt over my daughter leaving to live with her brother in her senior year because of her dad.
way too much
really tired
yes i do count my blessing and yes some people have it worse,but this is my day to day reality.
just a little prayer for me if you remember.

Dear Safe Nest Readers, how can we intercede and offer comfort to this Reader in need? How can we encourage her today after reading her story of pain? Please comment below to be a light in her life. Join The Safe Nest.

House of Mirrors


Have you ever bought a ticket at a fair or circus to the House of Mirrors? You know, the one where you enter a dark tent and there are wall to wall mirrors and each one that you look into your face and body look completely distorted? You head is flat and curved, your body wide and broken? There are infinite images of yourself? It is meant to be entertaining because what you see of yourself is not really what is reality. You know your body does not look like this crazy image facing you. You leave the black tent giggling.

Have you ever been to a party or a church service, concert, class, meeting – where everyone around you was nodding their heads and thinking and believing the same thing, but you were pretty sure that was not the way things worked outside the sanctuary or conference room? It can make one feel very confused and isolated. Imagine you were to stand up in the middle of the class and tried to convince the teacher that there was a whole world outside that claimed that the sky was really blue and not the purple that they insisted on inside that room. What if they put you in the corner and locked you in until you were ready to admit that the sky was purple? What if you grew more and more angry?

What would you do?

Our brains are so powerful. They are so expansive. Even in a child. Even when the world around us looks, well, distorted. Somewhere in our small, big brains we know better. There is truth whispering persistently. What do we do if we still have to attend a service amongst a group that feels we are one way when we KNOW we are another? We preserve ourselves.

My brain, my room was more than I realized it was at the time. It was a bubble where I could preserve my good, healthy brain. It was a place where I knew I was Christen and I was okay. I knew inherently that the sky was not purple, that it was very, very blue and it was beautiful. I knew this by going outside, reading, watching the world and observing.

I grew and grew. I became insistent on sharing the great news that the sky was blue. It is beautifully blue! In my tent no one believed me. I was crazy. I was super crazy. I was slightly evil. But, no.


I live outside the tent now in very green pastures under my bright, blue sky. I know the truth because it declares it all around me. “You are okay. You are my daughter in whom I am well-pleased.”

I am?

I am not the enemy?

I am not sin itself?

I am not crazy?

Yes, God. I am not these things. I am your daughter in whom you are WELL-PLEASED. And the sky above is crystal and blue.


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