Shame On You

shame on you

shame

n.

1.
a. A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.
b. Capacity for such a feeling: Have you no shame?
2. One that brings dishonor, disgrace, or condemnation.
3. A condition of disgrace or dishonor; ignominy.
4. A great disappointment.

Why is shame necessary? Why do we feel ashamed of certain behaviors or when something we do offends someone? Most, if not all of us have experienced this emotion. We have done something that made us get red faced and filled with a sense of dread and an uncomfortable feeling that we would like to crawl under the floor and disappear. The reason we feel shame is a product of our human reaction to doing or saying something that is considered bad or outside the norm. Shame is something that some people also try to induce in others as a way of making them feel superior. “Well, if I were she, I would never do that.” “No one in their right mind would be caught dead saying something as outrageous as that!” “What is wrong with her?!? She ought to be ashamed of herself!”

The reason many Activists today question whether it is good to be consumed with a feeling of shame regarding sexuality, pornography, nudity, and profanity is because many of us feel that the reaction is a product of the collusion between people in our society in order to bolster our egos and to create a sense of belonging by making tacit agreements with one another to follow prescribed rules and social mores and that over time, their legitimacy and correctness should be challenged. A lot of us feel, now that it is healthier to question existing beliefs, authority, and the ways in which we decide that things are right or wrong. Enlightenment has influenced many fields of study and has altered the way in which we approach religion, sexuality and their interplay. An emphasis on open-mindedness has changed how we value our experiences. Accepting mistakes we have made, learning from them, and moving forward has facilitated this transition. To re-frame and deconstruct ideas, concepts, and long held ideals emboldens tolerance and a higher level of thinking. If you take nudity, for example, we can see a naked form and not judge it to be good or bad but as something to look at. Placing a value on it or determining that it needs to be covered up is not about the fundamental form. Clothes have more to do with practical things such as the weather. Clothes can also be worn to adorn the body and are a fashion statement, but these things do not teach us that the body, in itself is a good or bad thing. The law has argued over what is to be called, “too obscene” and what not. The law can also be seen as a more flexible or evolving thing, as well. This is the point. It is the reason some believe in a more traditional interpretation of the bible while others take a more modern or reform approach. It often divides people politically, as well. It is why we argue with our friends and family over whether to remain faithful to the way in which we were raised or challenge the status quo.

An excess of shame can kill you. When we get to that point, we know that we need to alter something in ourselves in order to continue to live. To be able to adjust our thinking takes work, but it is a goal that can be attempted. Even goals are not always achievable. Learning how to work on them without an expectation of perfection helps. In the way that an artist’s body of work is never finished, and in the way we often do not read an entire book, thinking about things from a broader perspective can be viewed as a process, and this is a great way to open ourselves up to change.