Have You No Shame?

I'm not easily embarrassed. This is largely due to how little I regard what other people think of me. Or simply, how little I regard what other people think (just being authentic over here). But being married will teach anyone that there are some people whose thoughts we ought to care about. And not just because it's considerate. Because, otherwise, people will try to make us care.

Maybe I just have no shame, but that hasn't stopped folks from trying to give it to me. How many times have you heard the phrases, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" or "Have you no shame?" They're usually said out of utter exasperation that you or I would not only commit whatever it was, but would do so without caring about whatever it is they care about. Which raises an interesting dilemma in the human experience: you can't make someone feel something they don't.

I'm a glutton.
I can't care about everything and I can't know everything (which, for me, is admitting a lot), but that doesn't stop me or you or anyone else from wanting everyone else to care about what we do. We're myopic little creatures not unlike goldfish with three-second attention spans only long enough for our own, personal experience and maybe a handful of others. So it's hard not to take it personally when someone doesn't dress to our modesty standards--how dare they disrespect my struggle. How dare that person recommend a TV show laced with domestic violence. Don't they know my family history? Don't they share the convictions my universal story has led me to? They ought to be ashamed.

No, they really ought not. Or so says culture. In fact, let's take it a step further: you have nothing to be ashamed about. At all. You're perfect the way you are, and no person or standard or ancient book can tell you otherwise. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are, and stand obstinately for your right to be that crude visage of humanity you want to be.

I don't need to tell you how much crap that's full of. You know. "I have nothing to be ashamed about"? Uh...yeah, you do. You're ashamed that you eat more than you should. You're ashamed that you talk behind your co-workers' backs. You're ashamed that you cheated on your spouse, lied on your taxes, kicked your dog, screamed at your kids, laid into a cashier because you had a bad day. And you should. Feeling shame isn't bad; trying to make someone else feel ashamed is.

Shame is like guilt. You feel it when you do something wrong. That's good. Because you suck as a person just as much as I do. And without it, you'd care a lot less about how your awfulness affects others. So if you want to actually be a good person, learn to be ashamed of yourself. Learn to feel bad when you hurt people and do better next time.

Just don't try to shame someone else. No one can feel shame if they think they've done nothing wrong.

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