My working definition of shame is that it’s a reaction to one’s own deeds or one’s own self that produces a feeling that one does not belong to, or deserve to belong to, their tribe. As well it can be an internal divorce of self.
Tribe can refer to any of a variety of social groups: a family, a nation, a sports team, a gender, a school, a job, really any collection of people larger than the individual. Shame is felt when actions are taken that deviate from the values of that group to a degree that one feels outside the group, unworthy of inclusion.
Shame is a self assessment, a judgment of one’s self, and so is an internal phenomenon in this way. We can tell another person that they should be ashamed of their actions, but the person in question must to a degree agree that their behaviour is shameful in nature. If they don’t agree, they will not feel shame, nor feel that what they did or who they are being has them be on the outside of the group.
Shame can also be experienced when one departs from their own values to such a degree that disgust and revulsion occur.
Shame displaces self love and self worth. Held in the thrall of shame, a person cannot experience inner unity, a wholeness, that is part and parcel of self love.
For some, an event long past may have resulted in assigning themselves a life sentence, forever bad, wrong and ashamed. How do we prevent this? How do we escape that fate, so that love can abide within us?
First, realize that we can freely choose who we are. I don’t just mean accept who we are in the moment, though that is part of it, but also that we can adopt “be” as an action word. We can take on a way of being that is of our own creation in the moment, not given to us by past deeds and events.
We can newly commit to our values, or adopt new values. We can freshly embrace the values of the tribe.
We can be forwardly creating, not backwardly looking.
Part of this new creation may well be cleaning up with the tribe, and expressing what they can now count on us for. How they react, with acceptance or judgment, is on them. Our power is now in our embrace.
Just as shame is something we do to ourselves, so is self love. We get to choose what we make our lives about, and we get to choose newly, each day, each minute. To choose shame is to repel aliveness, connection, satisfaction, joy.
Choosing to love ourselves is to open the windows and doors, to let light and air in.
Two of our greatest needs as humans are to make a difference and to belong to something greater than ourselves. To banish shame is to usher in forgiveness and acceptance. It is to pave the way for profound self love.
It is to live life from choice, to reject being a passive victim, to declare a commitment to the world.
Banish shame, and choose.