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known people who feel so much shame about themselves that they
never allow themselves to feel good about themselves. They
never take pride in things that they do, and they generally talk
down about themselves. If someone compliments them, they
have a hard time accepting the compliment. Somewhere along
the line, someone has caused them to feel a deep sense of shame
that has stuck with them for years, and which they're having a
hard time shaking off.
This shame turns
their life into an emotional hell.
Shame and guilt
are strongly related; for me, the easiest way to make the
distinction between the two is in the sentences "I feel
ashamed," and "I feel guilty." The two
feelings are not the same for me.
Shame and guilt
are very similar in one important aspect, though: they are
both feelings that people will use against you if they have the
chance. This is especially true of "authority"
figures who are insecure themselves--if they can get other people
to feel badly about themselves, then their own power or strength
grows, in their minds. Unfortunately, many of these people
prey on others who are very vulnerable, and they can cause someone
to feel a great sense of shame about him or herself for a very
long time. How many of us haven't heard the words "You
should be ashamed of yourself"?
And how many people
have taken those words to heart and never let them go, carrying
their shame into adulthood, parenthood, their careers, and every
other facet of their lives?
Truly, nobody in
the world has the right to tell me how I should feel. If I
do something that they don't like, that's okay--I need to learn
about feelings myself, not hear about them from others who may or
may not define feelings in the same ways that I do. If I
internalize their words and start to feel a deep sense of shame
about myself and who I am, then I'm simply sabotaging my future
chances to come to terms with who I am and what I feel.
I have to look at
this from another perspective, too--do I attempt to make other
people feel ashamed for their words or actions? Because if I
push too hard, I may end up contributing to years of emotional
pain and suffering for this person. Do I have the right to
define what another person should be ashamed of?
leaders are quick to use shame as a tool to try to get people to
"follow God" more closely. They don't see that
getting people to follow anything because of a sense of
shame--rather than because of a strong desire to follow--is
ultimately more destructive than helpful.
Shame can be a
great tool for us if we use it for what it's worth. If I'm
ashamed about the way that I talked to someone, then I need to use
that sense of shame as a sign that I need to apologize. Then
I need to put the shame behind me--after all, I have no intention
of doing the same thing again. And if I do slip up and
repeat the act, then I can apologize again, and be glad that the
lesson has been learned more deeply.
Do you know
someone who feels a deep sense of shame and who doesn't give him
or herself a chance to feel good in life? Unfortunately, we
can't "fix" such people, but at least we can contribute
to their "recovery" by continuing to give them positive
input in their lives. Do you feel such shame yourself?
Then you need to deal with it face to face and then put it behind
Listen to me,
saying "You need to." I really don't have the
right to say that, do I? So let me rephrase it:
If you will deal
with your shame face to face and put it behind you, then chances
are good that you will see a great improvement in your quality of
life. And here's hoping that you always will allow yourself
to lead a very high-quality life! You deserve it!
(By the way, I do
believe that there's a positive side to shame. Once having
felt shame for a certain action, the desire to avoid feeling it
once more keeps us from performing similar actions in the
future. But once again, we need to know how to learn from
the shame and then put it out of our lives.)
it would be good to look at some words about forgiveness.
. . .
of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false
we have killed off so much real shame as well.
people behind the words
Two - Year Three
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As painful as shame is, it does seem to be the
guardian of many of the secret,
unexplored aspects of our beings. Repressed shame must be experienced if
we are to come to
terms with the good, the bad, and the unique of what we are.
A sense of shame is
not a bad moral compass.
we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition,
there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.
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|Some things you must always be unable
to bear. Some things you must never
stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and
matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and
for cash. Your picture in the paper nor money in the bank,
refuse to bear them.
Shame releases its paralyzing grip on us when we take
responsibility for our
mistakes and the sometimes serious consequences those mistakes can have
for ourselves and others. In this way shame can be our ally,
things we have not accepted about ourselves, guiding us to mistakes we
not acknowledged. Accepting our failings means accepting where we
hurt others, or ourselves, and making retribution
for these injuries where it is possible.
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live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything
that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our
incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just
as we are ashamed of our naked skins.
shame hides in many places - in anger, blame, denial, workaholism,
perfectionism, drinking, and anything else you compulsively engage in to
make yourself feel better. But if you could just learn to be vulnerable
for one second, and open up to the pain, you would find
there's no place left for your shame to hide.
is an unhappy emotion invented by pietists
in order to exploit the human
to oneself lies at the heart of shame. We discover in experiences
of shame the most sensitive, intimate and vulnerable parts of ourselves.
needs a sense of shame, but no one needs to feel ashamed.
begun in anger ends in shame.
secret thoughts of a person run over all things, holy, profane,
clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame.
is closely related to guilt, but there is a key qualitative difference.
No audience is needed for feelings of guilt, no one else need know, for
guilty person is his own judge. Not so for shame. The humiliation of shame
requires disapproval or ridicule by others. If no one ever learns of a
there will be no shame, but there still might be guilt. Of course, there
be both. The distinction between shame and guilt is very important, since
these two emotions may tear a person in opposite directions. The wish to
relieve guilt may motivate a confession, but the wish to avoid the
humiliation of shame may prevent it.
is the lie someone told you about yourself.
occurs when you haven't been able to get away with the 'who' you
want people to think you are.
whatever it is you're ashamed about. You may think you can hide
your shame by not talking about it, but in reality, it's your
shame that's hiding you.
shame is, there is also fear.
basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but
the ignominy, the humiliation we feel that we must be what we
are without any choice in the matter, and that this
humiliation is seen by everyone.
children grow in environments in which their needs and longings for
specialness and warm relatedness are consistently frustrated, they begin
to turn away from their own needs in depression and shame. We can
the young children wondering, "What is wrong with me that I get so
response from my mother? The two possible answers are I am too
and unworthy of love, and there is something wrong with what I am asking
In both cases, there is something wrong, either with the children
or with their needs and desires. This experience of unimportance or
is the common relational backdrop for vulnerability and susceptibility to