Shame. It’s horribly painful, and never good for any reason at any time. Because of those who disagree, it makes shame a bigger problem than it is all by itself.
Shaming words get thrown around without regard to the damage they wield in the human soul.
Thoughtless words are spoken, such as ”shame on you” or ”you should be ashamed of yourself.” These don’t motivate anyone to act in a responsible way. It only causes emotional pain.
And then there’s the practice of public shaming. These events are things that haunt people for years.
Shame is powerfully toxic. Sometimes it’s deadly.
Shame is a problem that needs to be stopped.
Why People Shame Others
To elevate themselves because they feel intimidated or have been subjected to shame themselves—this is passing the problem along.
They project their own shame on others subconsciously, like when a child’s behavior embarrasses a parent and the parent retaliates with shame. This is a problem on both sides of the shaming.
Good intentions go wrong as they try to get someone to take responsibility for unacceptable behavior with shame. But that’s not what shame does.
No matter the reason, shame always breeds destruction.
Why Shame Is Such A Problem
Shame doesn’t correct anyone’s behavior. It only condemns the person.
Shame is defined as “a painful emotion caused by the belief that one is, or is perceived by others to be, inferior or unworthy of affection or respect because of one’s actions, thoughts, circumstances, or experiences. A condition of disgrace or dishonor.”
Shame attacks a person’s inherent value, saying, “There’s no coming back from this, no recovery, no hope, you’re bad, worthless and deserve to die.” Shame drives people into hiding.
“Shame is a soul eating emotion.” ― C.G. Jung
When we shame someone, it’s deeper than words. It cuts to the soul and feels like death. Shaming has been the precursor to many a suicide. Shaming people is destructive and hateful.
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” ―Brené Brown
We are not what we do. Who we are and what we do are connected, but they are not the same. Shame is judgment without mercy.
Shaming a person removes the opportunity to take responsibility and make a change.
What To Do Instead Of Shame
When someone has done something wrong and it needs to be addressed, use these two tools instead of shame: guilt and responsibility. These two go together and will bring about positive change.
Guilt is defined as “the fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense; moral culpability. Responsibility for a mistake or error.”
It’s clear that guilt addresses the behavior—what a person does, instead of who they are.
When someone does something wrong, they’re guilty. Accepting that guilt is the beginning of change. The next step is the proper response or taking responsibility.
Taking responsibility can be a simple admission of guilt and sincere apology.
Other times, there may need to be consequences. Things ranging from time outs and removal of privileges for children; to community service or prison for adults.
Admission of guilt and accepting responsibility is good character, which leads people to change and better themselves.
Helping someone take responsibility is solving the problem of shame.
Going The Extra Mile
Although it might seem trite, love is going the extra mile. The Bible calls it a more excellent way. Love has the best interest in mind for all parties involved in any situation.
I call it the extra mile because loving someone who’s done something wrong isn’t easy.
We all make mistakes. Mistakes are things we do, not who we are. When guilt has been admitted along with a willingness to take responsibility, change takes place in the heart, and this is what affects our behavior.
Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are demonstrations of love and go a long way in building character in the human soul.
I’ve suffered debilitating shame from others. I’ve also suffered due to shaming myself. My own heart condemned me when I felt guilty of something until grace, mercy, and forgiveness healed my soul. All three of these flow from love.
It took me a long time to believe and experience this kind of love.
But I’m not alone.
In the beginning, when God created people, there was no shame. Everything God made was good. Having no shame was good. They were naked and didn’t experience shame.
That was until humanity became guilty of betrayal. The Bible calls it the fall. God didn’t respond or retaliate with shame. God chose another way, the more excellent way.
Adam and Eve hid out of self-condemnation, just like I did.
God called out to them, offering them the opportunity to take responsibility. But instead of taking it and owning up to what they did, they chose to blame, which is a form of shame.
And shame is a problem—it lies. Shame told them they weren’t worthy of love. But God said they were. God went the extra mile, covering them and protecting them. And today he still goes the extra mile with something he calls grace.
Grace says you have a choice and you are loved.