Who Are You Ashamed For?

Tame the Shame
If you have ever been in a relationship of any kind, chances are you have been shamed. Often it is the people who are supposed to love you the most that shame you most often and most devastatingly. The saddest thing about shame that I have observed is that often people who have been shamed the most will be the ones most likely to internalize it and shame others.  Many of them will also become the very ones to serve as the surrogate shamers of their abusers or oppressors. How horrible is that?

Determined to not be a part of this cycle, I meditated deeply on shame and its possible sources for years and I came up with this hypothesis that helps me put shame into perspective. It goes like this:

Originally shame was a useful tool meant to save people’s lives by making sure that they knew to stay with the group. At a time when it was extremely difficult to survive in the world alone, people thought that they were doing others a favor by trying to keep them in the group–to keep them safe. Shame began where the boundaries of social safety ended.  And, I bet it worked well for a time too. That’s probably why it so pervasive across cultures. For me it even makes sense why religions tend to use it so much. Shame can essentially be seen as a cohesion device. At least that is what I told myself and continue to tell myself when I am working on forgiving people who resort to shame in order to keep me in the place they are most comfortable seeing me in or if I catch someone shaming someone I love. I tell myself, “They are afraid and are simply trying to establish boundaries. If they knew I was not a threat, they would change.” Still, this doesn’t mean I’m going to conform if to do so means functioning in a capacity that is less than what God is inviting me into.

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