On Shame

The two main part of speech are nouns and verbs.  Nouns are people, places and things, and verbs are actions – things we do.  Shame is a word that can be both a noun and a verb.  It can be a thing or an action.

Have you ever felt ashamed? That feeling you get when you know you’ve done something wrong. That feeling that makes you want to crawl into yourself and disappear. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes from within because it helps keep us in check. Hopefully, it keeps us from hurting others too much. Shame as a feeling is a noun. It has substance and purpose. It is a thing. As a noun it means embarrassment or discomfort.

Shame as a verb means to humiliate, to mortify. Recently, shaming has become a popular thing. We fat shame, slut shame, and poor shame.  We humiliate and mortify each other. For what? To make ourselves morally superior? To show how “Christian” we are?

What got me thinking about shame are graphics like these:

They get shared on our Facebook pages and people don’t really think about how they might affect others. Think about it. Think about how it feels to open up your Facebook news feed and see this stuff if you are a person who, even though you try your best, can’t feed your family without food stamps.  You know, if your one of the more than half of people on food stamps who work.  How do you think it feels to the guy who searches everyday for a job or the man who worked in a factory for 20 years only to be replaced by a computer?  How does our shaming help those people? What does it do?

Seeing poverty as a moral problem is a practice older than the United States.  I’ve been doing a research paper on poverty in Early America and I find that our views today on poverty haven’t changed much in the last 250 years.  (For more on my views about poverty, feel free to read this)  People say that if someone is poor, it must be because of sin or something else of their own doing. You know what? People use to say the same thing about illness. Would you post about cancer or ALS being the sufferers own fault? No, people don’t do that because we know better now. We know that illness isn’t a moral issue it’s a physical issue. We now know that mental illness isn’t caused by demons. We need to apply this thinking to poverty as well. Considering that the poorest parts of this nation are in the Bible Belt which has the highest rate of church attendance and the most people claiming to be Christians, it seems odd that poverty would be a morality problem.

But the Bible says…….
Yes, the Bible says lots of things that can be taken completely out of context.  My favorite is “work or you shouldn’t eat.”  Have you ever looked at the rest of that chapter? Paul is reminding people that just because the Lord was going to return quickly, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our normal everyday things until He does.  The proverbs, written by the son of a king who never wanted or worked for anything, are used to shame people.  Do you know what else the Bible says about the poor?

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

I could keep going, but I’m sure if you can find verses condemning the poor, you can find more that say to help them.

The Bible also has a lot to say about how we speak to others…

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

See, when we shame others for having less than us, we are putting ourselves above them. We are not following the example Christ gave us.  Christ, above all, was humble. He lowered himself because he knew that humility leads to honor.  As Christians, we are to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”

So, does “shaming” have a place?  When should we shame others? We should call attention to people who harm others. We should shame the rapist. We should shame the racist. We should shame those who hurt children and animals. We should shame those who oppress the poor. Those people need to be made aware that we will not stand by and let them hurt others. We should always be a voice against those who do harm.

Friends, we can stop hurting others with our words. We have control over what we say to and about others. We choose  everyday what kind of person we are going to be. Can we not just choose  to be kind, compassionate, and humble? Can we choose words that build people up – not tear them down? Can we choose to help and not hurt? If we all choose to not let any harmful words pass through our lips or on to our Facebook pages, how much better would this world be?

Before you post things, think about everyone who sees your Facebook page? Is anyone struggling to make ends meet? I’m talking about people you know; your family, friends, people you go to church with. Has anyone been laid off and is desperately searching for a job? Think about them when you post things. Try to put yourselves in their shoes before you shame them, before you mortify them, before you humiliate them. Try to see things from the perspective of those hearing what you say or reading what you post. Maybe then the world will become a little bit more kind.

I’ll leave you with this…

love-pic

One thought on “On Shame

  1. Is shame (as a verb) born of a lack of empathy? I think so. And yes, I’m guilty of being judgey, shamey, and holier-than-thou on the internet, too. Empathy is something I try to remain mindful of on an ongoing basis.

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