The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
I grew up in the 70s and was a teenager in the 80s. I think my generation was on the tail end of believing in the concept of child discipline. I remember how I grew up and the rigid set of rules and guidelines that had been placed around me. I remember knowing that if a teacher sent home a bad note, it would never even cross my parents’ mind that it was due to the teacher having a personality conflict with me. That note guaranteed one thing — well, maybe two. Significant punishment combined with an ass-whoopin’!
If I was acting up in a store or other public place, I didn’t need to wait for my mom or dad to shoot me a look — a look that I had learned from a very early aged had better be heeded or else it would be met with significant punishment. And an ass-whoopin’! It didn’t need to be a look from my parents. Any adult would suffice. Because, if I were to ignore the reproachful gaze of another adult and that fact reached my parents’ ears, I was in for not one, but two ass-whoopins’! One for misbehaving and the second for embarrassing them!
But this idea of learning how to behave was not relegated to just being around adults. My peers taught me this same lesson and they were equally harsh at times. When I was asked to cover the outfield in kickball and the ball came flying to me, I had better catch it or I was going to get some nasty comments floated my way and guarantee last pick the next time played. (Note, there are kids today who have no idea what kickball is or what I meant by ‘last pick.’) When it came time for lunch, if I brought my Star Wars metal lunchbox to the middle school lunch table, I would have been made fun of for the rest of the school year. Probably longer.
It’s all about context — the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation. Star Wars lunch box in kindergarten? Two thumbs up. In 8th grade? Not so much.
Context is the filter we learn to utilize to avoid shame, assuming we learned the concept of shame to begin with. Without shame, there is no need for context. If we have no fear of repercussions then why do we care if something is appropriate or not?
I’m of the very strong belief that shame is a necessary concept to ingrain in our children. If instilled, nothing feels worse than to feel ashamed. I’ve talked to many adults my age and older and invariably they will all say that getting a spanking or being grounded was easier than being told they had let mom or dad down. That sense of shame will haunt you constantly, sometimes fooling you into thinking it had finally gone away only to hit you just before falling asleep and forcing that horrible pit in your stomach to open once again. It messes with your self-esteem in ways that make you want to avoid ever acting that way again.
But, when no shame exists, there is no longer an internal mechanism to help control bad or aberrant behavior — the behavior that is out of context from what is considered acceptable or productive. It also leads to an over-inflated sense of self-esteem, which leads to self-aggrandizement and, eventually, delusions of grandeur.
For example, I had a discussion with a young man who was an entry-level data entry assistant. It wasn’t exactly an exciting job. In this case, he was mad that he was being asked to handle a side project that would likely mean working late a couple of hours during the week or over the weekend. His comment was, “When the clock hits 5:00PM, I’m supposed to be gone. What the hell is this crap?”
Curious, I asked him why he felt he was only capable of working until 5:00PM? He could not articulate, instead opting to compare it to how mad he used to get about doing homework. He said it never made sense to take schoolwork home because school was for school and home was for home. Ahh, the logic of the simpleminded.
Amused, I pushed and asked if he thought that would apply to athletes, too? He stared.
I swear, there are times I wish I had my iPhone ready to snap off a picture when moments like this happen. The stare was priceless. I actually think I heard a rubber-band or two snap in his head. If I had let him sit in silence longer, I may have been greeted with a wisp of smoke and the smell of burning rubber.
However, rather than let him wallow, I followed with, if your example holds true than an athlete works only when on the field or on the court and that’s it. No waking early to run. No time in the weight room. No time spent reading up on an opponents record, reviewing film or discussing strategy and tactics with the coaching staff. Because, home is home and the field is the field, right?
Sometimes, I think I’ve come up with the perfect analogy to derail an inane argument. Other times, I’m greeted by such ignorance, that, were I to create a character like this in a book or screenplay, no one would believe it possible for someone to be that dense. Here I was, smiling at the thought that maybe I had gotten this young man to see the light when he shot back, “That’s different. They get paid millions of dollars. If you wanted to give me millions, I’d be happy to work extra.”
The concept of working hard and putting in more time on his own was anathema to him. This was a kid who was raised with no sense of shame. It never even crossed his mind to think how ridiculously he was acting and thinking, or that maybe by doing more than his co-workers he might stand out for that next promotion. All he knew was it wasn’t his job to do anything extra outside of working hours — unless he was going to get paid handsomely for it. The concept of working hard FIRST and being rewarded LATER utterly escaped his diminutive mental faculties.
As I walked away, I realized I had hit upon a notion that helps explain why our country is in the shape it’s in. When you have no concept of how ridiculous you are being, when you have no context to allow you to see how to (or not to) behave, you live in a perpetual narcissistic bubble of egocentrism. You truly believe the world revolves around you and thus owes you something, while you are not expected to contribute in any way.
This notion explains why so many are okay taking government handouts. They are not ashamed to be on the welfare dole. Hell, we don’t even try to create that sense of shame anymore thanks to the EBT card! Now, it looks like just another person paying with a debit card. The only way we catch-on to those folks, more often than not, is to see them buying better food than we can afford with their card and then paying for alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets with cash.
This notion explains the entire “Occupy ___________” (fill in your favorite big city name) crowd, who wanted everyone to see what victims they were, with their iPads, smartphones, American Eagle jeans, Aeropostale shirts and North Face jackets. They were the 99%, remember? They were the victims, having never really worked at anything beyond getting a mostly worthless degree and sponging off their parents.
We are not helping our kids by absolving them of this life lesson — this lesson of shame. I truly feel sorry for kids who literally have no clue about life and the “real world” because they’ve never been forced to understand it and learn how to behave within it. They have always been given a trophy, even for a losing season. They get told they are the smartest, greatest, most talented person in the world and then they can’t figure out why no one on the outside of their bubble feels the same way. And because they lack shame, they have no problem playing the victim card, saying it’s the other person’s fault for being too stupid to recognize how great they are!
What we need our youth to grow up understanding is that life is hard, demanding and unfair, so get over it. Learn how to struggle. Learn that you don’t always win, which means you don’t always get a prize. Teach them that when they don’t do what is expected (or more than expected), they will not succeed. Teach them that to be rewarded for failure is a horrible thing and should never be acceptable.
Teach them, that when the teacher sends home a bad note, it’s not because the teacher hates them. It’s because they are trying to get you to understand that if you don’t learn how to behave today, you will never learn the tools for success tomorrow.