Pain hurts. It feels bad. I don't like it.
I prefer not to feel pain, but I'm glad that I can. I'm glad that there's something that warns me when my body is damaged. Pain is my body's warning system that tells me when there's something wrong. Without it, I wouldn't know that there's something that needs fixing.
Shame is very similar to pain in many ways. I don't like how shame feels. I prefer not to feel shame. But shame is what warns me that I've done something that I probably shouldn't have done. It's my warning system that I've done something that I wish I hadn't or not done something that I wish I had.
So what is shame? What causes us to feel shame?
Shame is that feeling we get when we don't live up to the ideals that we have for ourselves or that we've accepted from other people. When we fall short of the goals we've set or that we've let other people set for us. When we behave in a way that is contrary to the man we want to be or think we want to be. This is why we feel shame.
It's important to note that other people can't make us feel shame without our permission.
Again, other people can't make us feel shame without our permission.
If some stranger on the internet mocks me as a simpleton for using the wrong "your/you're", I might feel only the slightest twinge of shame since I try really hard to write good words on the internets. If, however, this same stranger mocks me as an antiquated barbarian for supporting the 2nd Amendment and teaching my sons to throw a punch, I'd actually feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The shame that a person feels is entirely under their control.
Sure, there are people that will try to manipulate and use shame as a tool to server their own selfish goals. There are people who will take advantage of and abuse other people, sometimes just for the personal validation and entertainment of seeing someone else suffer.
Using shame this way is bad, but it's possible only because the person feeling shame allows it.
This may seem like I'm trying to pile even more shame on a person that already feels bad about themselves. At least, I hope that's how it seems, because it's what I'm doing. But look closely, I'm also showing that person how to free themselves from the shame born of manipulation.
Take a close look at why you feel shame. Have you accepted someone else's opinion for how you should make decisions as your own? Do you measure yourself by someone else's standard?
Now, do those other people that you've allowed to influence you to feel shame have your best interest at heart? Are they motivated to inspire you to become a better person? Do you want to become the sort of person that they want you to become?
If you feel shame as a result of the opinions and expectations of people for whom you have no respect, it's time to cut them loose. That's bad shame. If, however, those opinions and expectations come from people that care about you and that you respect and admire, maybe you screwed up and should feel ashamed.
How about you fix that?