The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What purpose does Shame serve

This is something that has bugged me for a while. In sociology, there are three categories of Fear, Guilt and Shame to explain what governs and regulates behavior. According to some popular beliefs, Fear is the dominating motive for indigenous peoples, Shame for Asian/Middle Eastern societies, and guilt for western societies. Frankly, I have found all three present in some respect in all cultures, as far as I know. I understand with fear as being about avoiding something that is dangerous. But I also understand how fear can become repressive in keeping someone back from ever taking healthy risks. Then there is guilt, which seems healthy, and similar to grief. I remember Sin being described as a breaking of relationship, and all sin is a severing to some extent(though not always the intent). And guilt is a good motive to want to fix a severed relationship. Yet guilt can also be unhealthy, if the relationship is built on toxic grounds. Like the old “If you really love me/if your really are my friend, you’ll do what I say”. Obviously relationship with a perfect God cannot be toxic, where relationships with another can be.

Yet I am not sure I understand the justification for shame. As I best understand it, shame seems to be a sense of worthlessness and inferiority because of someone elses disapproval. Yet I dont see what purpose there is in feeling unworthy just because someone is disapproving. Much disapproval is just someone elses subjective opinion. Like in some subcultures, being a womanizer is a sign of being a true man. So there is often a shame sentence imposed on someone for not being a womanizer. Plus, guilt and fear are not a condemnation on the person, just on their actions.

Why would, or should, the person feel shame unless they felt the other person’s disapproval is justified?

Is shame not a form of self hatred?

Did Jesus not say to hate ourselves?

I suppose shame could be looked upon as a positive if it serves to humble people or motivate them towards true godly repentance or God Himself.

In the Bible we read a prayer: Let me not be ashamed.

Joseph Prince lumps shame with addiction as things we need to be freed from:

1 Like

I sometimes think that I overthink the whole question of shame, and try to figure out where it comes from. I do not even know if shame is the correct word for my dislike for self righteousness or dualistic moralism.

In my opinion, if guilt and shame or fear regulate a person’s behaviour, the person is a weak person, and is lacking in self-control. Anyone who shames him or frightens him, can control him.

A strong, wise person acts according to what is morally right, and/or what benefits other people.

Don you are right, but unfortunately many youth don’t have that understanding of morality, for what ever reason. Wisdom and life is often lost to the youngsters. Go figure.