Much has been written in recent years about the negative aspects of shame. We are taught how to heal from shame, how to eliminate self-shaming messages, how to avoid shaming others. But what is the value of shame and how can we rightfully call the behavior of people, including the leader of the United States, shameless?

Shame brings that uncomfortable feeling that I am bad. It isn’t a global belief that everything about me is bad. Rather, as a useful feeling, it says “I have failed to act in a way that is that of a good person and I am trying to be a good person.” It can alert us and allow us to do differently next time. Guilt, another useful feeling, says “I have done something bad.” It is easy to confuse the two, but guilt may arise without shame. Guilt can sometimes make excuses that shame doesn’t allow.

What of a man when confronted with accusations of rape replies, “She isn’t my type.” as the U.S. leader just did? We inwardly recoil at hearing that, and I think it is because we recognize a total lack of shame. Similarly when we hear of children locked in cages we feel the shame that many of our leaders fail to feel. I like to think I live in a compassionate society. I don’t like the feeling of knowing I live in a society where this atrocity is taking place. I feel ashamed. Grievously, that feeling is not shared by the people who could change the situation.

So let’s admit that it is the total lack of shame from the U.S. leaders that sickens us. And that lack suggests there is no end to the behavior they condone. Shame can be a gift when used for good. Let’s pause the next time we feel it and see if it brings helpful information before we disregard it.

19 thoughts on ““Shameless”

  1. I think what I feel when hearing of children locked in cages and animals mutilated is horror that the human mind can think up and perform such inhumanities. Something surely must be missing in such minds. How can they be diagnosed and remedied before they mature into animals?


  2. Regardless of one’s politics, we should be able to recognize shameful behavior. If we don’t call it what it is, then it becomes commonplace and to a degree, accepted. (This goes for Republicans, Democrats, and any other party affiliations). No group can act like they are the moral authority. It wasn’t that many years ago, that one of the political slogans was ‘the party of family values.” Great post, Elizabeth.


  3. It seems to me, Elizabeth, that the leaderships of countries and global conglomerates realise that it is all a big popularity contest and they look to see what issues are driving people and pander to them. Effectively, it usually ends up being about money and most people can be bought at a low price. Great article.


  4. I have often thought that shame is not something that exists in the minds of any world leader I can think of. When they live a life based on lying from morning to night, if they felt shame, I doubt they could function in their jobs.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  5. Sadly our politicians in the UK are too often shameless. It saddens me how Principles such as integrity and aspiring to do well by others and for the future of mankind and the planet seem to be diminishing – and I don’t think it’s just my age.


  6. If a man replies, “She isn’t my type” to a rape accusation, I think it speaks volumes of what he might or more realistically has done to the many women who ARE his type and who he interacts with on a daily basis. It is a weak defence. Also, rape is more about control than sex or sexual attraction, so he can shove that excuse.


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