The Uses of Shame

Sunday, June 14, 2015 – The Uses of Shame

One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful. … Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots. ~ Jeb Bush

There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again. ~ George W. Bush

I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don’t. ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. ~ H. L. Mencken

It is quite time that our children were taught a little more about their country, for shame’s sake. ~ Henry Lawson

Certainly it is no shame to a man that he should be as nice about his country as his sweetheart, yet it would not be wise to hold everyone an enemy who could not see her with our own enchanted eyes. ~ James Russell Lowell

Ignorance makes most men go into a political party, and shame keeps them from getting out of it. ~ Edward F. Halifax

You’ve got to vote for someone. It’s a shame, but it’s got to be done. ~ Whoopi Goldberg

Few people can see genius in someone who has offended them. ~ Robertson Davies

Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants. ~ Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

A nightingale dies for shame if another bird sings better. ~ Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

Love taught him shame; and shame, with love at strife, soon taught the sweet civilities of life. ~ John Dryden, Cymon and Iphigenia

I count him lost, who is lost to shame. [Nam ego illum periisse duco, cui quidem periit pudor.] ~ Plautus

We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinion, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins. ~ George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

The most curious offspring of shame is shyness. ~ Sydney Smith, Lecture on the Evil Affections

Where the mind is past hope, the heart is past shame. ~ John Lyly

I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don’t treat me right, shame on you! ~ Louis Armstrong

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed. ~ Jonathan Swift

One is never so dangerous when one has no shame, than when one has grown too old to blush. ~ Marquis de Sade

Because impudence is a vice, it does not follow that modesty is a virtue; it is built upon shame, a passion in our nature, and may be either good or bad according to the actions performed from that motive. ~ Bernard de Mandeville

Doubt is the brother of shame. ~ Erik Erikson

From infancy on, we are all spies; the shame is not this but that the secrets to be discovered are so paltry and few. ~ John Updike

Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive, half wishing they were dead to save the shame. The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow. They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats, and flare up bodily, wings and all. What then? Who’s sorry for a gnat or girl? ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It is a matter of shame that in the morning the birds should be awake earlier than you. ~ Abu Bakr

It’s a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can’t eat for eight hours; he can’t drink for eight hours; he can’t make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work. ~ William Faulkner

One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame we have killed off so much real shame as well. ~ Louis Kronenberger

Shame is a fitter and generally a more effectual punishment for a child than beating. ~ Samuel Richardson

Shame is an unhappy emotion invented by pietists in order to exploit the human race. ~ Blake Edwards

Shame is the feeling you have when you agree with the woman who loves you that you are the man she thinks you are. ~ Carl Sandburg

Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others; and shame is fear of humiliation at one’s inferior status in the estimation of others. When one sets his heart on being highly esteemed, and achieves such rating, then he is automatically involved in fear of losing his status. ~ Lao Tzu

Shame is closely related to guilt, but there is a key qualitative difference. No audience is needed for feelings of guilt, no one else need know, for the guilty person is his own judge. Not so for shame. The humiliation of shame requires disapproval or ridicule by others. If no one ever learns of a misdeed there will be no shame, but there still might be guilt. Of course, there may be both. The distinction between shame and guilt is very important, since these two emotions may tear a person in opposite directions. The wish to relieve guilt may motivate a confession, but the wish to avoid the humiliation of shame may prevent it. ~ Paul Ekman

Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture. ~ Salman Rushdie

There’s shames a man can never reason away, though he looks back and piles up reasons over them forty dozen deep. And maybe those are the shames a man never should reason away. ~ Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. ~ Brene Brown

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~ Benjamin Franklin

We cannot be kind to each other here for even an hour. We whisper, and hint, and chuckle and grin at our brother’s shame; however you take it we men are a little breed. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before – more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. ~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

You cannot let your parents anywhere near your real humiliations. ~ Alice Munro, Open Secrets

The terror of being judged sharpens the memory: it sends an inevitable glare over that long-unvisited past which has been habitually recalled only in general phrases. Even without memory, the life is bound into one by a zone of dependence in growth and decay; but intense memory forces a man to own his blameworthy past. With memory set smarting like a reopened wound, a man’s past is not simply a dead history, an outworn preparation of the present: it is not a repented error shaken loose from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavors and the tinglings of a merited shame. ~ George Eliot, Middlemarch

I am not ashamed that I was once a vacuum-cleaner salesman, only that I was a good vacuum-cleaner salesman. ~ Robert Morley

Shame is a soul eating emotion. ~ C. G. Jung


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