“Shame on me”?

This is my first writing session of 2016. Shame on me.

(Not really. After my intense writing-sprint to finish novel draft # 2 by Christmas Eve, I needed a break.)

Come to think of it, why do people use the phrase “shame on me” after they have committed a wrong or perceived wrong? Same for “shame on you.” Whether it’s a social faux pas or actual wrong, those are actions, not someone’s state of being.

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Brené Brown links guilt with wrong actions and shame with our selves. What we’ve done is different from who we are. (Though our character gives rise to action, of course.) David Corbett, a Writer Unboxed blogger, goes a bit deeper by showing that fear is at the basis of both guilt and shame. (Wonderful post, BTW. If you’re a novelist, you need to read this.)

In shame, I “fear being shunned by those I look to for support, respect, and love.”

In guilt, I “fear being punished for something that violates a moral code.”

(Note: The moral code can be relative. A gang member’s code of morals is far different from mine. And where our personal/cultural moral code doesn’t line up with the absolute moral law of God, then we’re both wrong. Note, too, that fearing punishment isn’t the same as being convicted of the inherent wrongness of one’s actions, as traditional Christianity understands it.)

So, back to my slip of the pen: shame on me for not writing for over a week and for not blogging for who-knows-how-many weeks. If my moral code dictates that I write every day and blog three times a week, then, yes, I’ve violated it. I’m guilty.

The root fear isn’t being shunned by my readers, as I doubt that they’ve noticed my absence in the midst of their own hectic holidays. (Besides, y’all are the forgiving types. I hope.)

The fear is being punished by myself for violating my own arbitrarily determined moral code. The self-punishment may range from lack of publication opportunities to writer’s block. (That doesn’t appear to be an issue at this moment, does it?) All of this has nothing to do with me as a human being or me as a writer-being.

“Shame on me”? More like “guilt on me.”

Anyway, welcome to 2016, everyone. It should be an interesting year.

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19 thoughts on ““Shame on me”?

  1. Re: ‘I doubt that they’ve noticed my absence in the midst of their own hectic holidays.”
    I did notice it!
    In fact, a few weeks ago I went to your site to make sure that WordPress didn’t accidentally unfollow it! (It has happened to me before with other blogs!)

    I salute you for your incredible writing ethic and talent, & your dedication to “Ruminate”.

    Happy 2016 and may it be your best year yet!!!

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  2. So true! Actions are not the same as who you are. I try to be very careful when disciplining my children, not saying, “bad girl” but instead saying, “that was wrong,” so they don’t internalize the feeling of shame as part of who they are. Great post!

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  3. There;s been a debate for centuries whether it’s a matter of “What you do determines who you are” or “Who you are determines what you do”. I think shame is related in a way: are we shameful because of our actions or our inherent beings. Regardless, I’m glad that because of Jesus I bear no guilt OR shame.

    And as to whether anyone noticed the dearth of posts, I sure did. But I figured you were working on other important stuff.

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    1. Great point about Jesus and us not bearing shame or guilt. 🙂

      I was frantically trying to finish my second draft of my fourth novel by Christmas Eve while dealing with Christmas-related craziness at my daughters’ school!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. In the West, most people now find their security in what they do, especially a job. So if you are unemployed through illness or whatever, you probably devalue yourself before anyone else can. In Jesus, I too bear no guilt or shame. Once we are released of those burdens, and particularly of worrying about what others think of us, we do find freedom in Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a great point about how people find value in their work. It may be slightly more true of men than women, who, in my limited experience within the conservative Christian subculture, tend to find their worth in their relationships. Specifically, their relationships (or lack thereof) with a romantic partner and children. But either way, in Christ, we bear no guilt or shame, whether employed or not, whether married or not, whether as a parent or not: we are free. Thank you for the reminder!

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  4. I’m very interested in your choice of subject here, Laura, because of a situation I’ve been pondering for the last 3 or 4 days. Someone from my church (a woman I would consider a friend but not an intimate one) just wrote a blog post and a Facebook post about her disappointment re how nobody pitched in to help her family when she was briefly in hospital this week. She listed all of the things that “would have” helped, cited Scripture about “feeding My sheep,” and stated that she wanted to convict, not condemn, her fellow Christians. Yet the outcome was that I felt shamed. She had expectations, and the rest of us did not meet them. She didn’t state those expectations, but assumed we all knew them and would fulfill them. Now she is hurt and disappointed, and I understand that, yet I’m thinking a lot about boundaries, about shame, about guilt, about why we do or do not reach out and ask for what we need, and a lot of other things. Still processing!

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    1. I’m sorry you felt shamed, Jeannie. If she and her family needed help, surely it would’ve been better to ask for it than to wait on others to do what she expects. I know I’ve been guilty (there’s that word again!) of expecting things of others when I wasn’t doing well, but failing to communicate my expectations to the people I wanted to help. In my defense, I was severely depressed and DID tell a handful of people about my diagnosis and DID ask for help prior to the diagnosis. I think I felt so much shame over my depression that I didn’t know how to reach out very well; that shame came from fear, too, that people would turn their backs on me when they learned I was bipolar, which, essentially, those people (who I tried to reach out to) did. So . . . I don’t know. There’s so many different factors in a situation like this. (How reasonable were her expectations? How well communicated? Were the people able to help and refused, or unable to help because of their own life circumstances, which is a legitimate consideration, I think.) I don’t think dumping that disappointment onto others is the right response, though. (Boundaries!)

      But like Tim and Con. Christian have commented, in Christ, we have freedom from shame AND guilt. If you felt shame, I’d say that her well-intentioned words came across as more condemning than convicting.

      (For a post that had its basis in a stream-of-consciousness, hastily-written journal entry, this one has prompted a lot of conversation!)

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  5. Stop “shoulding on yourself” and welcome back!!! I figured you were busy writing. Hope you also enjoyed your Christmas with the munchkins and loved ones. Happy New Year, Laura!!! ❤

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    1. Oh, I stopped shoulding myself as soon as I wrote it, but my brain continued on in free-style manner and I ended up with this post. We had a pretty good Christmas even though it rained like–well, not like cats and dogs, more like a bunch of zoo animals! I hope your holidays were good!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good! (That you stopped shoulding on yourself!) We had a lovely Christmas, thank you, and are enjoying the rainy weather out here! Bring on the cats, dogs, zebras, elephants….whatever! We’re enjoying the cold and wet after having gone so long without it…..

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