How Jesus Uses “Good” Shame to Call Oppressors to Repent
Most of us assume that all shame is toxic shame (feeling bad for the person I am). But can shame be “good”? In this episode we continue a conversation we started a few episodes ago in our Christmas episode, where we wondered about the way Jesus seems to leverage shame to seek repentance and restitution from oppressors. We received some excellent reflections from Naomi, a member of the Gravity Community, and we wanted to address some of what she said.
Here are Naomi’s comments in full:
“Hey all – I’m just in the middle of the Christmas episode and the shame chat. I’ve done so much thinking about shame in the past 18mths or so. I also agree there is a form of shame that is healthy, which is different to guilt. I think guilt is linked to rules – I did something wrong that broke a societal rule. You can feel guilt outside of a relational context, because it is about our social rules. But shame is about broken relationships. Toxic shame says, “I am a bad person and am worthy of being expelled from the group, if people saw the true me they would reject me.” Healthy shame is about recognising that my actions can break relationships and hurt people, and therefore (hopefully) keeps me from doing those things. Part of our problem, I think, is that we haven’t learnt how to repair damage we do to others, so we fear our shame will lead to permanently broken relationships. My understanding is that in honour shame cultures this is more codified, so there are clear ways to restore honour if relationships are damaged. Thoughts?
“Eg. I feel guilty that I ate an extra cookie. I broke a perceived rule, but no one else is hurt. I may also feel some (toxic) shame about my weight because I believe it makes me somehow unacceptable and an object of judgement from others. I feel a combo of (healthy) shame and guilt when I yell at my kids, because it both breaks one of my parenting rules but I also see that as an abuse of my power and damaging to our relationship, but I know how to repair it. If I didn’t (yet) understand that, a friend may need to help me recognise my actions as “shameful”, hopefully without exiling me from the community. But if it was severe and I was unrepentant, then that may be necessary for the safety of others.
“Also, if my yelling at my kids is unchecked, they are likely to internalise toxic shame. I think often our toxic shame comes from someone else being shameless, and the shame therefore ends up on the wrong person (ie on the one with less power). Because it wasn’t theirs in the first place, there is no way back for them, other than putting the shame back to me, it’s rightful ‘owner’.”
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