August 2         

Today's quotation:

We 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.

George Bernard Shaw

Today's Meditation:

It's such a shame that we're trained to feel so much shame in our lives.  Any way that we're different or unique is a possible source of shame in our society-- are you messy?  Do you not feel patriotic?  Did you show up at a formal party in jeans?  Is your sexuality somewhat unique?  Did you have sex with someone you're not married to?  Did you miss an important meeting?  Other people can find tons of sources to try to make us feel shame because they know that if we feel it, we're likely to be more "controllable" because we want to make up for our "shameful" act.

Shame, though, is an artificial concept that human beings have adopted to try to control other people, and it's been especially dominant in religions.  Many of the things that we grow up being ashamed of are actually quite normal human qualities and traits, and there's no reason at all for us to feel shame for them.  Many things that we do are simply mistakes, and once we've apologized and made amends, there's no real reason to carry shame for the action with us for any amount of time.

There are legitimate sources of shame, but they're fairly rare.  And a bit of shame here and there can help us to strengthen our character when we realize that we don't want to do that kind of thing any more.  But when we live in shame and focus on that shame, we rob ourselves of the power to become the people we were meant to be, and we don't allow ourselves to function with the freedom we need to make our lives something special.

There are very few things that you should be ashamed of.  It's perfectly normal to make mistakes and move on with our lives, not being ashamed of the mistake.  When we learn to reject the attempts of other people to make us feel awful for something that we are or that we've done or said, then we learn to create our own lives on our own terms, following our own instincts and our own ideals.  Life isn't a free-for-all, of course-- we simply can't go around doing whatever seems okay at the moment-- but when we know that we've done nothing really wrong or that what we are is our business and no one else's, then we can leave shame behind and move on to do the great things that we were meant to do.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many church leaders try to make members of their churches feel ashamed?  Why do so many parents use shame as a disciplinary tool with their kids?

What things do others seem to think you should be ashamed of?  Are you ashamed of them?  Why or why not?

What is the true source of shame?  How does it affect us in legitimate ways?
For further thought:

Your 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.

Adam Appleson

more on shame



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