The Shame Game

A commenter recently thought my post about Sarah Palin's palm notes was "shameful".. it got me to thinking about how sometimes people try to shame others into thinking or acting a certain way. Often shame is mistaken for guilt and is falsely thought to be a response to bad behavior. I like what some of what this site says about the difference between the two.. here are a few excerpts:
When we feel guilt, it's about something we did.
When we feel shame, it's about who we are.
Shame comes from being taught that we are worthless or bad or something similar.

It comes in childhood from adults who say things like:
"You'll never amount to anything!"
"You are worthless!"
"I wish you were never born!"
"Shame on you!"
People who are shamed have to live in the same world as all the rest of us but they have to live in it with the deep-down conviction that they are worthless.
People who've been deeply shamed need to be fully loved and accepted and valued!
I so agree with that last sentiment. A lot of my pastoral ministry was spent encouraging and loving people who were raised by parents who were masters at playing the shame games.

Of course the commenter's use of the term shameful is not the same genre as the one I have painted here.. it just reminded me of why I don't like the word.. of course I did use the word in the response I had for their comment


  1. This is the same sort of distinction as the difference between humility (which we should all aspire to) and humiliation (which some folks seem to equate with humility... though it's not the same thing at all).

  2. or confusing avocado (which is a delicious gift from God) with asparagus (which is surely a spawn of satan)

  3. Bob, we also encountered that in our years of ministry. I just had a flash back to childhood and remember a finger gester, meaning "Shame on You". Sliding one finger over the other in a downward motion towards the person. Do you recall that! I had an Aunt that would do that if we children did something wrong.
    Funny how a comment can trigger a memory.

  4. I am kinda late in responding to this but I wanted to say it "shame on" someone is to judge them. "Shame on you for, thinking, doing, saying, feeling, acting....." and the only one in the universe that has the right to do that is the Almighty! For real! The only thing that we should be concerned with is ourselves. That leads to the "control" subject that was discussed. What part do I have control over when I say anything, what part of it is mine? I can say Shame on you for drinking...but what part of it is any of my business? This person might be drinking to numb the pain that he feels for a deep hurt. What part of that do I have control over. Instead of judging and saying shame on you. Perhaps I could be more like Jesus and pray for them. Pray for their Pain?? I could suggest AA to them, but I can't make them go...I could tell them that they are hurting themselves, but I can't make them see the truth....SO what do I have control over, what part of it is mine...... NOT to judge, NOT to partake in the drinking, NOT to ride with them when they drive, and pray for them that they will see the light.....How did I do Bob???? :)
    Valerie Stevenson-Alkire

  5. Great thought Valerie!! I had not seen it as another form of judging but I believe you are right!


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