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What's your take on "shame"?

09 July 2012, 07:21

A few generations back a pregnant girl usually left school because of negative social stigma she'd received from others in society, and these days teenage pregnancy is not as big a deal as it was made out to be back then. Another example is that of defrauding the taxman or any other form of corrupt underhanded practices. It was considered ungentlemanly or even disgraceful or shameful to cheat on your taxes a generation or two back, yet nowadays a certain UK Banks' CEO goes in front of a Treasury Select Committee to defends himself and his bank in order to give a complete opposite side to the story in what he's being accused of.

Scientist,Charles Darwin describe shame in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals as:"consisting of blushes,confusion of mind,downward cast eyes,slack posture and lowered head."

Is there a moral drift that has taken place in society at large these days? Should we resist the pressure of public opinions? You see ideas concerning that which is appropriate from that which is unacceptable and that which is creditable and honourable from that which is irreprehensible or shameful differs from place to place and from person to person. Should we rather consider popular opinions and values of the time instead of imposing our own standards on what we observe in others around us?

Ancient Greeks,Romans and Jews all considered honour and shame to be pivotal values in their individual cultures. From Homer to Herodotus and from Pindar to Paul,men lived and died in their quest of honour,reputation,fame,approval and respect. However such incredible values made them susceptible to the opinions of others. Status,position and honour in life were and is everything in any society.

A society that gets characterized by an acute awareness of rank,from nobility to slavery is where men were at times. Honour is a person's value,not only in your own eyes but in the eyes of others as well. To honour someone means too acknowledge publicly that he or she behaved in a way that's expected of him or her. Rendering honour to someone means being outwardly impressed by a person's wealth,nobility,office,rank,social standing and therefore according him or her the due attention. You gain honour by performing virtuous deeds and acts or by excelling over other people like in sports,business,academics or the olympics.

In contrast,shame on the other hand is accompanied by public humiliation,displeasure and even ridicule as per Darwin's definition above. Psychoanalyst Helen B.Lewis writes: "The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation. In guilt, the self is not the central object of negative evaluation, but rather the thing done is the focus."

Fossum and Mason wrote in their book Facing Shame: "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person."

Psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman says: "Shame is an acutely self-conscious state in which the self is 'split,' imagining the self in the eyes of the other; by contrast, in guilt the self is unified."

Shamefulness also gets shown to a person when he or she is being seized and publicly charged with wrong doing by law enforcement officers. Then for a person to be bound or confined is still seen as degrading by onlookers. Such treatment insults you as a person before friends,family and your general community. On top of that the stigma attached to your reputation could completely shatter your self-respect and damage your relationship with others. It can even incite feelings of contempt and derision,which deprives you of your honour. Not the worst kind of indignity,but still you know.... rather obey the law I guess and then endeavour to avoid the shame that follows from the wrong kind of conduct.

Should you allow other people's standards in life,whether it be celebrities or just average Joe, to dictate your course of conduct? Should you fold under outside exerted pressure by others to conform to their way of thinking? What if someone is morally repugnant,dishonest or engages in questionable activities like one UK Bank's CEO? Why should any of us be ashamed for standing up for what is right? There is no dignity gained in seeking glory from inglorious fools.

Any person that desires honour in life should give weight to what society thinks of him or her. However it would be foolish and short-sighted to be influenced entirely by public opinions. So honour the honourable things and shame the shameful things in life.



3.Bad Attitudes: Historical Perspectives Archives/ › Culture & Society › History › Modern History.

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