Recently I became that mom at the grocery store. The one we all promise ourselves we’re never going to become. I’m not talking about the cute mom in kitten heels and 7 for All Mankind jeans. Nope, I was the lady in jeggings, no makeup, and a sloppy ponytail, causing a scene in front of her children.
I made the mistake of shopping when my kids were hungry and I was in a hurry. So I spent most of the trip flinging food into the cart while yelling at my three sons to sit still and stop eating all the groceries. By the time I pulled into the checkout line, I was sweating from stress and exhaustion. (#hotmess)
The cashier took one look at me and my boys. Then, in a voice loud enough for the customers behind me to hear, she reprimanded me because my youngest wasn’t properly buckled into the cart—and refused to give me my groceries until he was.
He should’ve been securely fastened. I own it. But rather than simply apologizing to her, buckling him in, and keeping what (very) little dignity I had intact, I freaked out.
“This is the most ridiculous thing ever!” I yelled this statement. Not a whisper, not even a raised voice. This was a full-on, causing-people-to-stare-at-me, yell. I then proceeded to buckle my son into the cart with such pomp and circumstance I just knew the customers in line behind me would applaud my chivalry in light of this unjust personal affront. (They didn’t. Mostly they were just annoyed I was taking so long.) I paid quickly and stomped out of the store like a petulant toddler.
We tend to associate feeling ashamedwith the dark secrets of our past, but sometimes shame can strike in ordinary places like the grocery store—especially when you’re a mom. Believe it or not, there can be a bright side to these mundane moments of shame. They can become like a signal indicating a need for personal growth or change, and can serve as a powerful lesson for your children. In other words, if you’ve acted shamefully, you have to put on your big girl pants and apologize. Otherwise, you’ll just end up spreading your shame around and sitting in it, while simultaneously teaching your kids to do the same.
So maybe the cashier that day wasn’t the pinnacle of customer service, but frankly, it wasn’t up to me to change her. I could do something only about myself. I needed to redeem that moment by teaching my kids that even though mommy messes up she always has the choice to begin again.
A few days later I returned to the store and approached the cashier sheepishly, “I don’t know if you remember me, but I owe you an apology for my attitude the other day.”
I wish I could tell you it ended like a scene from a Hollywood movie: we hugged and laughed uproariously about the whole to-do. Now we wear matching BFF necklaces. In reality, she didn’t remember me, but she thanked me for returning, told me no one had ever done that before, and we giggled together (albeit a bit awkwardly). Most importantly, my children saw their mother facing and overcoming shame.
I hope you never cause your own scene in public. (I’m hoping you at least have on a cute pair of jeans if you do.) But if you can remember that these moments are opportunities to grow, your children will learn that they have the power to conquer their shame—just like mommy, the overcomer.
Sections taken from Overcomer by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan.www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.
Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women to experience freedom from shame. She is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home-mom to three sons, which is to say she spends most days in her pajamas drinking too much coffee. On the days she manages to get dressed, Aubrey speaks at MOPS groups and retreats. Aubrey’s first book on overcoming shame, Overcomer, is available for pre-order now on amazon. Follow her on Twitter at @aubsamp.