Have no shame. (Day 5, Year 2)

Well, friends, my "shame bell" image created quite the stir yesterday and I've been thinking about it a bit all day. To clarify:

  • It is a re-creation of my favorite shame bell gif depicting someone in the OG plague ringing a bell of shame. 
  • The bell is actually a family heirloom from Denmark that is used to celebrate the Yuletide season (and my mother is going to be very mad about its use as a bell of shame, which makes it all more fun, frankly) 
  • COVID does not equal shame, that's just silly. 
  • And most important, I have no shame.  
I actually cannot think of a time in my adult life when I had shame. I can think of times when people have said: "YOU HAVE NO SHAME!" or "YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED." or "YOU ARE SHAMELESS." (My mother may say these things about the use of the bell (so no one tell her, okay?). 

I love the shame bell gif because it is so utterly ridiculous and I think humor and mockery take away the power from things that are dangerous, like shame. 

If I was ranking shame as it compares to all other emotions (including rage), I'd give it a fat juicy zero. I think shame is the most destructive, most damaging and most useless emotion. It is not to say we should not recognize when we've made an error or not be held accountable for how our actions may affect others or not sometimes be a bit upset and angry with ourselves.  We all need to aware of how we move in this world reflects upon us; but at the same time, I think sort of think we have to stop caring about all of that and just try to do our best, forgive ourselves and others and of course, live without shame. 

When someone tells me they are ashamed of themselves--I mean really, truly, broken and ashamed--it breaks my heart. There is nothing on this earth that anyone, ever should live in shame over. You can live in accountability, awareness, empathy, humility and compassion; but shame--shame is darkness. Shame is evil. Shame is a lie. 

We all do things that stink. And we are all victims, at times, of things that are absolutely horrible. The world is filled with evil, horror, bullying, racism, ineuqity and so many things that are destructive and need to be changed. But it stops there. We don't need to attach more weight to things that happen. We don't need to judge ourselves harshly because of choices we made or the choices others made that affected us. Shame is the biggest liar on the block. 

Of course, this is all easier said, than done. There are really big, horrible things that happen to human beings. It's all so complicated. 

Sometimes, my son will tell me that he "feels ashamed" when he does something really trying (like shoving 100 q-tips in the 75 year old midcentury bathroom sink with 120 year old pipes). I don't even know where he learned the word "ashamed." I don't use "ashamed" in the context of my children and their behavior. I use other choice words, which I should perhaps analyze, but thankfully, "shame" and "ashamed" are not part of my parenting vocabulary. 

But his use of ashamed tells me that "ashamed" and "shame" are prevelent in our world vocabulary-and maybe that is the first problem. We talk about "shame" so much that it roots in ourselves and we start trying to identify with times we feel it and then, slowly, shame can be a way of life. 

Again, it is complicated. 

I also think we stigmatize living without shame. I can think of times when I've observed and said, "Oh look at them, just living their life as if nothing happened!" in reference to someone who did something wrong. This is just ridiculous of me and something I want to work on--I certainly do not ever need to be one passing out shame. 

Every single one of us deserves to live their lives as if nothing has happened. We deserve joy and great laughs and good humor and days of being shameless (and enjoying our shame bell gifs and whatnot). I know it is not as simple as saying, "okay, shame is a joke and I am over it," but it is a tiny bit of a start.