This I Believe

David - Maumelle, Arkansas
Entered on September 23, 2006

Sept 2006

David Murray Registered Nurse Little Rock This I believe!

I believe in a sense of shame! I believe it an essential part of our humanity and essential to our survival as a species.

It can be argued that shame is synonymous with conscience, but I disagree!

Conscience, to me, resides primarily in the head. Thus it is subject to the changing winds of argument, peer pressure, media hype, political correctness and…spin! Conscience induces varying degrees of headache and it is said that one may “clear one’s conscience by “ doing the right thing!” Indeed, one may even recall later the remedy used as a springboard for self congratulation.

Shame is much more visceral in it’s effect. Capable of inducing true nausea! It resides deep within us and while the symptoms may be alleviated by “doing the right thing” it should never truly go away. The memory of it should be permanent and enduring. An ulcer that, though healed on the surface, is capable of erupting again if we sway from our advisable diet. A stain on our soul that cannot and should not be able to be laundered out.

The “spin cycle” only makes conscience dizzy! Shame is indelible!

We are not born feeling shame. Apparently some never learn to feel it’s burn. I both pity and despise those with that deficiency in their makeup. In a “feel good society” we are encouraged NOT to induce shame in our children or any negative emotions about the self. If a child covets and steals a playmate’s toy it may be the earliest opportunity to experience a truly important lesson in life. Most of us have had instruction on the boundaries of behaviour at an early age.. I defy all but the saints among us (where are you all by the way?), to deny that the practicum, the little laboratory experiments we are driven to by our curiosity, were not the true essence of Behaviour 101.

I doubt I will ever measure up to be the man my father was but that is my greatest aspiration.. Not a carbon-copy! A reasonable facsimile would be good. He did not teach me to feel shame. I learned that all by myself, most often by ignoring his advice and example. I still feel the shame of that. Neither was he perfect. None of us are thankfully. He did teach me to believe that we can always aspire to be better human beings. Something only possible by acknowledgement of our failures as well as our successes. Also that shame is an unavoidable corollary of joy and fulfillment. His gift to me was that notional scale to measure by.

We have to experience these feelings generation by generation through the little things in life in order to recognise the threats to our internal acid-base balance that forestall unacceptable behaviour later in life. Our potential as humans to multiply the effect of our disregard and/ or ignorance of shame as adults is too damaging to ignore.

In my musings on this subject I took shame for a stroll through a few topical neighborhoods. Our attitudes to global warming and husbandry of the planet. To our nation’s capital and the scandals and corruption that infect it as well as the business world that both supplies it’s acolytes and accepts it’s graduates. To our foreign and domestic policies where we make far reaching and often irreversible decisions that affect millions both at home and abroad. We even visited the supermarket aisles and the freeways to observe blatant self-interest , self-indulgence and disregard for anything outside our own narrow focus at the most accessible level. We did not meet as many fellow travelers as we had hoped.

The self-help sections of the bookstores, the churches, the schools, our living rooms seem to be dispensing excess amounts of over the counter remedies to numb the pain for the short term. The Peptalk-Abysmal treatments they are dispensing seem to be failing to “hit the spot!“ Is that as good as it gets?

I believe we all really need to “feel the burn” a little more. Shame on us all !!