|Shameless…………… by ric justiss
The essence of shame - It is a deep, pervasive
experience of loathsomeness or disgust about
who or what we are.
It is different than guilt. Where guilt is about
specific actions that may be put right or forgiven,
shame is about our core identity; the experience
of seeing ourselves from another perspective, in
the worst possible light; or of fearing that others
see the secret self we keep hidden away.
It's interesting to me that shame seems to be linked with seeing and being seen.
Others have distinguished between guilt and shame by indicating that - We feel
guilty for what we do, We feel shame for what we are. Shame is often a much
stronger and more profound emotion than guilt. Shame is when we feel
disappointed about something inside of us, our basic nature.
Shame is the aftermath of having egregiously violated an internal warning to not
commit an act that we have educated ourselves against, and crossed over.
Shame is that painful emotion caused by a strong sense of embarrassment,
dishonor or disgrace.
And I have known those who are shameless and selfish. They have no shame
because they have no sense of right or wrong. They were not taught. There are
many instances of parents choosing to bring lives into this world, only to
destroy their young innocence and purity by abandoning them. If anyone should
feel shame it should be the parents. So some never learned.
But for the rest of us, the shame is deserved when we commit the unthinkable.
The child molester and the preying on the elderly come to mind.
I, in my life, have known the feeling of shame. It is not good. We all want to be
highly regarded and thought well of. It brings you to your knees.
The bar seems to change from generation to generation as to what constitutes
shameful behavior. I remember when “gays” were in the closet because they
would be ashamed if others found out their secret. Motherhood out of wedlock
was a cardinal sin in society. Alcoholics, prostitutes and strippers led a secret
life they wanted none of their friends and family to know of. A history involving
prison life was a well guarded secret. Gambling was only done behind closed
doors. A drug user may as well have been a murderer in the eyes of the public.
Adultery…God help you if you got caught and it became public.
Shamelessness is rampant in the business community today. Words like Enron
tell it all. A lack of shame is not something new to our political system. High-
class swindlers everywhere - their fancy homes and ludicrous perks gained by
fraud and deception - their accounting systems nothing but elaborate lies. TV
evangelists, businessmen, lawyers and politicians, they go on doing what they
do, devoid of a sense of shame, with no intention of stopping unless the cops
come calling. Other forms of shamelessness permeate society at its highest
But from where I sit, even though “the times they are a changing,” character still
Being a good person, whatever that specifically means, involves making
accurate judgments about the rightness or wrongness of one's actions and
conforming one's actions to those judgments. The concept of "good person" or
a "decent society" is not meaningless, though there is strong disagreement
about what a "good person" or "decent society" is.
Shame is one way society shapes the behaviors and attitudes of its members; it
follows from and is a sign of membership in a moral community.
The sense of shame is a kind of cement in any decent society. The fear of shame
reminds each of us that some things must not be done. You don't become a
criminal because you would bring shame to your family. You don't employ
muscle against the weak. You don't beat up women or prey on the old. You don't
father children and then abandon them. You don't cheat or swindle because
exposure would coat you with the tar of shame. You don't preach high ideals
and live a lie.
But it's clear that we are now awash in shamelessness. It's clear that the sense
of shame needs to be revived and the shameless held to account.
Dec. 28, 2006