I can relive virtually any moment of my life and a prominent element will be the memory of a sense of shame. Shame has been an overriding state of being throughout the years, beginning as a very young girl. My mother shamed me tremendously, with words and that look of complete disappointment and shadow of disgust in her eyes whenever I fell short of her expectations on any and all range of behaviors and actions. I have been an outsider, the daughter of a preacher, the one with a lack of social skills, the one wearing the odd clothes, the weird hair, the one afraid to speak up not sure how others would react to whatever words might come out of my mouth. Would I say something stupid, pronounce it incorrectly, sound like the out of place person I felt inside?

Later shame came not only from people’s treatment or perceived reaction to me, but came due to actions of my own. Through my lies, decisions with outcomes I hadn’t anticipated, angry, snarky and judgemental thoughts and beliefs about others I brought self inflicted shame upon myself. It spirals until you find yourself in a very low place where it is hard to believe you are capable of creating good in your life or that you would even be deserving of it should it make an appearance.

Shame is dangerous. Guard against it. Don’t heap it on others. Especially children.

Below are three definitions I pulled up in a quick search:

  1. Shame, embarrassment, mortification, humiliation, chagrin designate different kinds or degrees of painful feeling caused by injury to one’s pride or self-respect. Shame is a painful feeling caused by the consciousness or exposure of unworthy or indecent.
  2. A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
  3. painful emotion caused by the belief that one is, or is perceived by others to be,  inferior or unworthy of affection or respect because of one’s actions, thoughts,  circumstances, or experiences.
I guess it could be argued experiencing a touch of shame upon acting in an inappropriate way can help one recognize wrong behavior with the option to correct course. But constant, persistent degrading shame has the power to change who a person is. As I recall the moments of shame I have experienced I am trying to give myself grace, love and a big dose of compassion in an attempt to forgive myself for those times I brought shame onto myself and healing for all the times others shamed me. Going forward when I realize I am experiencing shame it will be important to stop and ask why, the answer guiding me to what must then be done.

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