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Oct 5

Shame & Cultural Blunders

Posted on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

You’ve heard it said, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Shame on you.”

Sadly, more than one parent has used shame and humiliation to try to change the behavior of their children.

We have a lot of them, cultural blunders.

Here are a few blunders, but there are thousands more.
– Walking around with your “fly” undone.
– Farting in an elevator.
– Talking loudly during a movie.
– Singing, loud, off key.
– Throwing a tantrum in public.
– Breaking something in a store.
– Dirtying, or staining, your good clothes.

Rules Change

– Your “fly” came down unexpectedly.  Should you always be checking?
– You unexpectedly farted in an elevator.  Were you supposed to know it was coming?
– You spoke too quietly, and were told to “speak up”. How loud is okay?
– You were told to sing along in church, but no one ever taught you how to sing on-key.
– You were upset now.  How many of us can effectively postpone an angry outburst?
– You accidentally broke something in a store.  It was an “accident”, not a “purpose.”
– You were told to “Go out and play.”  You had your good clothes on, playing?!?

Complicated Cultures

Shame-based systems are complicated social orders.  The shame-based system might be a marriage, a family, a workplace, a school, a neighborhood, a community, a church, a political party and any other sub-culture.

In ESPN this week Jason Schwartz wrote, “Boston is a city founded on the twin pillars of shame and guilt, says Suffolk University historian Robert Allison. Our Puritan forebears lived their lives knowing that no matter what they did, it would never be enough for their wrathful god. The Catholics and Jews who arrived later lived knowing that no matter what they did, it would never be enough for their mothers. It’s no surprise then that the locals carry both a residual “sense of sinfulness” and of “not quite measuring up,” says Allison.” 1

It’s hard when the system seems designed to succeed, but perpetuate the pain.

Shame-based systems are performance-oriented designed to “act good.”
Shame-based systems are rule-governed governed to “look good.”
Shame-based systems are code-trained orchestrated to “sound good.”

Not all the intentions are harmful, but shame disempowers.

Complicit Corruption

So, why do we hesitate addressing the shame-based systems we are in?

We’re afraid that we might lose our freedoms.
We’re afraid that we might be punished for our past mistakes.
We’re afraid that we might fail to make lasting changes.

We’re aware it will be difficult to change and and we cannot envision immediate results.
We’re aware it will be difficult to change and we want to avoid the work.
We’re aware it will be difficult to change and we’d rather not change.

Shame breeds shame.  Shame needs remedies.

We CAN heal from the shame that binds our heart and the shameful lies that mind our mind.

More tomorrow.


Note – If you know the source of the chart above please let me know.  It’s not mine and I’d gladly give credit.

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