Today I had a lunch meeting with an old friend at the U. While we were ruminating on the extent and expanse of the nations political failings, we hit on one theme. Humans are afraid of shame and cannot accept failure. I am going to focus on the shame aspect today. Granted we can work to overcome this failing, but an overarching theme of human nature is this fear of shame.
Shame is something that drives us more powerfully than anything. We fear shame more that death. Doubt me? Think about seppeku, Oedipus, Caesar, your average teen suicide, and even Adam. If you think about it, Adam hid his shame using fig leaves, but ultimately he choose to leave the Garden, leave life itself, separate himself from God, from his life in order to help Eve bear her shame. Adam knew that if he ate of the fruit he would surely die and yet he did it. Why? I think it is because he could not bear the shame of being alone, the shame of having his help meet (whom he was partly responsible for) dieing. This shame was so much that he, like his descendants after him, took his own life twice because of the shame.
How often do we let shame control our lives? How often do we lie to cover up embarrassing moments? Why? If we are aware that no one is perfect, why do we continue to put on airs of perfection? To impress others? To impress ourselves? To lull ourselves into a delusion that we are better than we are? What would happen if we all began to be honest about our mistakes and admit when we are wrong? What if President Clinton had been honest and said, “Yeah I smoked Pot” or “Yes I did have sex with that woman” What if President Bush had come out and said, “I made a mistake, I goofed, I acted irrationally and sent our troops into war without accurate information” Wouldn’t we be able to better make decisions and not carry about so much pain and anguish in our own lives?
If we would simply be honest with each other, with ourselves, honest with everyone, wouldn’t life be so much better? After all, why do we lie? Why is it that when we are asked “does this dress make me look fat?” we all know that the answer is “no, you look beautiful”? Isn’t it to not cause that person shame by lying? Isn’t it better to be honest, because that way there is no shame?
Just some interesting thoughts I figured I would pass along. Let me know what you think!