Shame and Self-doubt

 From Chapter 1

 Late afternoon, January 2, 2003. My first routine evaluation for re-appointment since I had begun teaching in the fall of 2000 at Calvin Seminary. Things had gone well with students and colleagues, and my outside involvement was outstanding: conference lectures, church speaking engagements, book and article publications, as well as several translations of books I had previously written, all of which I summarized and submitted to Henry De Moor, Vice President of Academic Affairs. What should have been a predictable hour of pleasant interaction quickly turned somber with a series of bewildering accusations. . . .


Even before he arrived at his conclusion, I was feeling shamed as I had never been shamed before. . . . Even at that point, I defended myself. But I was so taken aback that I was virtually helpless. He had the documents on his desk. He was prepared. I was filled with self-doubt. I had been deceiving myself. I truly was a bad teacher and colleague.. . . . But self-doubt had taken over. I had become convinced of my utter failure and incompetence. My mind, however, was streaming ahead. What would people think?  The humiliation was overwhelming. My brain was fried—no other term captures my psychological state. Then well into the second hour, in a quavering voice, I asked: Does anyone have to know about this?I look back and ponder my pitiful self. That’s not me. I’m a fighter. . . . 


After leaving Henry’s office, I walked slowly through the dark hallway, making two right-angle turns to get to my own office. Colleagues had hours earlier left for the day or were still away on Christmas break. I closed my office door sat down in my chair and wept. There was no way that colleagues wouldn’t find out. What would I tell people? How would I ever get another teaching position? How would I earn a living? Would my publishers ever again consider a book proposal? What would my peers from other institutions think?  I was broken. I was so terribly humiliated. I would have to tell my son Carlton. He would keep the secret, too ashamed himself to tell anyone. But he had been so proud of me and my teaching and writing. Now even he would be mortified. Shame. It was overwhelming.

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