The definition of shame is brief, but the mechanics of it can be quite complex. The dictionary defines shame as a powerful emotion that manifests because of guilt, embarrassment, disgrace and unworthiness. Shame is an extremely powerful emotion that can leave long-lasting scars inside of a human being. The emotion can come about for a wide variety of reasons. Shame can manifest because of an incident over which a person has no control. Shame can occur because of a mental illness that implants toxic thoughts into the mind, as well. Dealing with shame is difficult, especially if the sufferer chooses to handle it alone. The treatment that a person receives for shame will depend on the reason that the shame is present.
Guilt vs Shame
Guilt and shame often go hand in hand, but several differences exist between the two. Guilt is a feeling that a person may develop after he or she completes an action that is wrong in the eyes of society. An example of an action that may induce guilt in a person is shoplifting. Another example of something that may bring forth feelings of guilt is an extramarital affair or an affair on a boyfriend or girlfriend. Cheating on a test may bring feelings of guilt to the cheater eventually.
Shame is a much stronger emotion than guilt is. Shame is a negative emotion that eats away at a person’s self-esteem and self-image over time. A shameful person may feel as if he or she is a bad apple or a worthless person. The person may wear the mark of shame and allow other people to abuse him or her because of the feelings of shame. A shameful person hates himself or herself and wishes the worst would happen. Such toxic shame can destroy a person’s psyche and emotional balance over time.
What Does “Have You No Shame” Mean?
Many people have heard the phrase “Have you no shame?” The phrase has been around for centuries, and it refers to a person’s capacity to feel badly about a dishonorable or deceptive act. For example, people may assume that a person has no shame if he or she brags about crimes or illegal acts. They may make the same assumption about a person who engages in extramarital affairs frequently and justifies them to the world. Such people may not understand the concepts of right and wrong. Alternatively, they may understand the concepts of right and wrong, but not care when they are committing wrongful acts. The question “Have you no shame?” asks a person to look into his or her soul and find the bashful and regretful feelings that should exist after a wrongful act occurs. The question asks the person whether he or she has the capacity for shame.
What Is the Walk of Shame?
The walk of shame exists in many cultures. The ritual consists of a shameful person taking a long walk past other people who know of the shameful act that he or she committed. In the college culture, a person may have to complete the walk of shame if he or she spends the night out drinking and has a promiscuous sexual encounter. The person’s peers may ridicule him or her.
The walk of shame exists on a multitude of reality television shows. People who are asked to leave the show may have to perform a walk of shame as they are exiting the scene. A walk of shame of this type is quite humiliating, and some people may refer to it as shaming.
The walk of shame occurs in many sports, as well. A soccer player may have to conduct a walk of shame if he or she receives a red card, and someone requests that the person leave the field and return to the dressing rooms. A batter who strikes out in baseball will have to perform a walk of shame all the way back to the dugout. A runner who breaks the rules in baseball may have to perform a walk of shame after he or she is caught cheating. People refer to such situations as walks of shame because the person who is walking most likely feels humiliation and embarrassment.
What Is Public Shame?
Public shame is something that happens mostly to celebrities. The tabloids and new reporters shame many celebrities when they perform actions that are less than perfect. For example, the press will ridicule a celebrity who acts out while he or she is intoxicated. The press will embarrass a celebrity who has a mental breakdown on television or radio. The news reporters will repeat a story several times if it includes infidelity amongst the stars. Public shame hurts celebrities because they are human beings just like everyone else is. In fact, public shame can lead a celebrity into a shame spiral, and the person may become depressed and isolated from the world. Many celebrities have committed suicide due to feeling ashamed about an incident that the media publicized.
What Is Reintegrative Shaming?
Reintegrative shaming is a criminal law concept. The concept involves allowing the offender to see how much the public disapproves of his or her behavior. The social disapproval affects the defender tremendously because of the shameful emotions that arise. One of the words that a person can use for a shameful definition is remorse. Social disapproval may shame a criminal into feeling enough remorse to refrain from repeating the criminal activity.
Shame Definition for Abused Persons
Shame is a forceful emotion that can occur in abused persons. The abused persons have no control over the heinous acts that their abusers commit. However, they may still feel responsible for the abuse. For example, a rape victim may feel as if she wore something or said something that caused her abuser to attack her. An abused child may feel as if he or she received abuse for being a “bad” child. The wife of a domestic violence abuser may feel as if she was “not good enough” to stop his abuse. The feelings may overwhelm her so much that her self-esteem plummets to nothingness. Abused persons need professional help and guidance to overcome the low feelings.
Shaming Definition in Bullying
Shaming can occur within peer groups, and it is a form of bullying. For example, a group of peers may shame a fellow student into believing racist concepts about another group of people. If the bullied party does not comply by treating another race of people poorly, then his or her peers may induce shaming tactics. They may call the person racist names and otherwise verbally abuse the individual.
Bullies may use shaming tactics to force their friends to drink alcohol or try drugs. If the peers show any resistance, then the bullies may call them names such as “punk,” “weak,” “gay” and the like. Bullies may shame their classmates for having unhip clothing, learning deficiencies, high intelligence, speech impediments, different political views, different sexual preferences, quiet personalities and more. The disgraced and low feelings that the abused parties feel because of the bullying define shame. They are the core definition of shame. High school bullying is one of the leading causes of shame in children. Untreated instances of shame can cause severe depression that may lead to high school suicide attempts.
Shameful is an adjective that describes a person whose soul is full of shame. It resembles the definition shame has, but it an adds an element of worth. A shameful person is a person who is worthy of disgrace. A shameful accusation is one that has the potential to cause shame in the accused party. A shameful attitude is an attitude that reeks of self-hatred and disappointment. The visual image of a shameful person would consist of a person with his or her head down in the corner of room.
Methods for Healing Shame
Healing shame begins with the person realizing that he or she feels shame and reaching out for help. A person who is feeling shame may be reluctant to seek help. What that person needs to realize is that he or she is worthy of love and acceptance. The person is human even if he or she has committed a heinous act. Abused parties will need to speak with therapists, counselors and peers so that they will have a strong support system during their recovery.
A person who is suffering with shame can seek assistance through various mediums. The person can call a crisis hotline to talk about his or her feelings. The person can contact a medical insurance provider ask for leads to shame specialists. The individual can contact close and trusted friends or family members. Journaling can help to relieve feelings of shame, as well. Additionally, religious rituals and closeness to one’s deity can relieve feelings of shame. The worst thing that a person can do is suffer in silence. A shameful person must trust someone to hold his or her hand and remove it from the quicksand of shame.