The Virtue of Shamelessness
I grew up hearing things like, "shame on you", "you should be ashamed of yourself" "You don't feel shame?", or name calling such as "Olodo" which means dummy in yoruba language.
Not just in primary school, but even in professional circles, I speak for myself as a medical student, experiencing rounds in a Nigerian hospital environment.
A DOWNRIGHT NEGATIVE EMOTION
Shame according to Merriam Webster is, "a painful emotion caused by the consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety"
Shameless still according to Merrian Webster is, "having no shame; insensible to disgrace"
As humans, we all experience varied emotions which can be 'seemingly' divided into positive and negative emotions. We would all agree that joy, hope and love, for instance are well desired emotions and do lift up one's spirit and lighten the atmosphere. Sadness, grief or anger on the other hand, dampen one's spirits.
Why I say 'seemingly' is cause there are many times when these negative emotions are a good and healthy indicator. Its only human to grieve after loss of a loved one or feel anger after some unjust situation.
The one emotion I can't quite put a finger on is shame. This seems downright negative, minus, minus negative to me. Worse still, this is based on different yardsticks.
Exactly when should one be ashamed and for how long?
Who says it's an indicator of a good conscience or feeling guilt?
How do you show that you feel ashamed?
Tell me one problem that was ever solved by feeling ashamed or shaming others.
No man has any right to cause another person to look down upon themselves. You shouldn't look down upon yourself and you shouldn't make others look down upon themselves.
Shame, makes one feel fear of not belonging, of not being accepted, makes you feel inadequate and people begin to do things they perceive won't cause others to look down upon themselves and won't make them feel embarrassed.
In two points, Shame brings about self condemnation and fear of being unaccepted.
WE MISS THE POINT BY PLACING AN IMPORTANCE ON SHAME
So your little child pees on the bed, or a corrupt politician who has been exposed publicly. How does shaming them or expecting them to feel shame change the overall situation?
Feeling shame only feeds our ego as people. Its not the shame the child feels that helps, its how you help them to move on, its how they move on. So the politician feels shame, so what? How can that undo the corruption that has been done or the harm to the public?
Am not condoning the 'immoral acts' as society would call them. But in Nigeria, we have a saying, "who e hepp?" Really who does it help?
Our goal as humanity should be moving forward, shame makes people feel and think less of themselves. The saying what the mind can conceive the mind can achieve is really true. If people cant think of themselves as more how could they can achieve more or become better.
We are missing the point by putting an importance on shame. Do you know the problem is not that they don't feel shame, the main problem is what necessitated the expected feeling of shame.
As a society, instead of saying to people, "you are bad, you are inadequate, you are dumb", our statements should be, "your actions were bad, your behavior was inadequate, your actions were dumb"
Point out the unacceptable actions or behaviours, mete out punishment if the wrongdoing is deserving of that and show the right way.
It is a vindictive and cruel thing to label people as per their crime, when we do that, we condemn them to having that reputation forever. How can we still expect better of them.
SHAMELESSNESS AS A VIRTUE
We are all deeply flawed people. Most* humans have it within them to feel bad if they do something wrong, okay. Most people do feel bad, they do feel shame, you adding fuel to the fire doesn't help.
This is why am learning to be shameless and commend shameless people, because they understand that feeling shame doesn't help anybody. Did feeling small or inadequate ever help anyone?
Telling myself I am not garbage is more encouraging to having better behavior in the future, than feeling that I am garbage.
Perhaps when we learn to be shameless, we can stop shaming others. While, should we hold onto shame as a virtue, we will continue to expect others to feel ashamed and promote shaming.
YOUR FUTURE ACTIONS ARE THE BEST INDICATOR THAT YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU DID WRONG BEFORE
Instead of feeling shame, what is more important is the steps and actions taken to redeem the situation, redeeming the time, living properly.
We need to teach the young ones that more than feeling shame, or we need to take actions to redeem past mistakes. More than feeling shame for wetting the bed, what is more important is what you do to no longer wet the bed.
We say feeling shame motivates us to do better in the future. Perhaps this is true, but does this work out in all cases?
AND IN THE SPIRIT OF EASTER..
And to my fellow Christians, Jesus would never demand of you to feel shame, and neither should you demand of others to feel shame nor shame others. I bring to your attention, Romans 8:1 In the spirit of Easter, lets not forget why Jesus died and rose again. It is because of his finished work that we can live without guilt and without shame. His righteousness is our righteousness.
Finally, remember my first four questions in the beginning of this post, yeah. If you find suitable and proper answers for them, do share with us.
* I said most, cause there are indeed exceptions e.g we have persons with antisocial personality disorder
REFERENCES (further reading if you want)
1.Association for Psychological science online; Two Faces of Shame by Wray Herbert
I agree that showing people that their behavior or action is unacceptable is much better than saying they are
unacceptable (Shame degrades the person instead) He also points out that shame may be good, cause then people shrink away from everyone including bad company. Shrinking away from everyone in general is not actually healthy.
2. TheConversation; The Power of Public Shaming for good or for ill. Lydia Woodyatt.
This article is quite confusing. Especially the 4th paragraph from the bottom. It say "where attention is drawn to wrongdoing.." Okay but shame points to wrong being, okay. Conviction points to wrongdoing.
3. PsychologyToday online; The Surprising Upside of Guilt and shame. Guy Winch
I attached this articles only because it explains the difference between guilt and shame.