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Shame versus Guilt

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posted on Jun, 22 2017 @ 12:55 PM
This is sort of pertaining to social issues and unrest, when I get to my last thought... but my wish is more to explore it in a philosophical way, rather than stir up (more) political conflicts.

I grapple with cultural clashes all the time, in the country I live in. Ultimately, my analysis of the contrasts has for aim the synthesis of them in my own behaviors and perspectives - to become more tolerant, more understanding, and behave in ways which are adapted and efficient in relations with locals.

So on one hand, pointing out differences seems like I am trying to separate, though the goal is to become more aware of self and others in order to see where and how we can be more harmonious.

One aspect I grapple with is the repeated impression of a lack of internal conscience in this culture. I mean, they have a saying, "Ni vu, ni connu". I've been shocked to see people lie and even counsel me to lie in order to gain advantages for myself. People react to my surprise at such counsel with a shrug and "nobody will know so it doesn't matter".

I realize that I often come off as incredibly anal to them. I've listened to french people joke that americans are so obsessed with honesty and moral rightiousness they are complete idiots.

I ressemble that remark. I can't sleep at night if I feel I have done something immoral or unethical - even of no one else knows! -Likewise, if everyone thinks I am guilty of something and I know I am not, I feel no discomfort, and will defend myself if accused.

I finally feel upon the description of "Shame societies" and "Guilt societies". I doubt cultures can be cleanly separated this way, more likely measured in degrees and in relation to other cultures.

The Guilt culture relies upon an internalized authority and judge.
Paul Hiebert characterizes the guilt society as follows:

Guilt is a feeling that arises when we violate the absolute standards of morality within us, when we violate our conscience. A person may suffer from guilt although no one else knows of his or her misdeed; this feeling of guilt is relieved by confessing the misdeed and making restitution. True guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order. (Hiebert 1985, 213)

In contrast,
Heibert characterizes the shame society as follows:

Shame is a reaction to other people's criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one. (Hiebert 1985, 212)

This describes very accurately the clash I find myself coming up against often! Behaviors that seem completely irrational to me suddenly come into focus when looked at this way. Lying stealing or cheating is all "right" to do, if it saves face and you avoid be ostracized by the community. It is important to conform, no matter what the cost.

In other words, the authority is out there - not within.

Many latin cultures like this seem to come up as Shame based, and I have seen that it offers some comforts. Responsability is shared and diffused, no one ever has to shoulder it alone. Victimization is a legitimate excuse "I had to because I was told to " actually works here in all sorts of contexts!

This puts into a comprehensable framework of understanding a lot of my personal challenges. But I am writing up here actually because it spurred another branch of thought-

I tend to see the american culture from my stand point - as it was when I grew up and as a young adult. The emphasis upon thinking for yourself and being and individual that was pushed so hard upon as kids, in cartoon and such- to keep us safe from the Communist contagion...

But it kind of seems like this is currently changing, no? With social media, especially. It seems to me (perhaps I am wrong) that people are falling into radical sides on all issues for fear of not fitting in with the group. Getting a lot of attention on twitter and facebook is more important than feeling in tune with your own conscience.

The authority lies in the likes, not your own soul.

Is that a mistaken view of current social movements in the US??

posted on Jun, 22 2017 @ 01:11 PM
a reply to: Bluesma

This quote reflects where I am at the present time wrestling with guilt and shame through societal programming, expectations from others and myself, etc.

So, in the infinitely nobler battle in which you are engaged against error and wrong, if ever repulsed or stricken down, may you always be solaced and cheered by the exulting cry of triumph over some abuse in Church or State, some vice or folly in society, some false opinion or cruelty or guilt which you have overcome! And I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann

posted on Jun, 24 2017 @ 07:19 AM
Lying is wrong. Guilt is getting caught . Judgment by others is independent of morals. Hurt feelings, shame whatever you call it. It is a growing problem. People need to tell each other when their breath stinks. Instead they lie, to protect their feelings. This is twisted morality or a twisted society it is complete unnatural and therefore guided in some manner.

posted on Jun, 24 2017 @ 07:33 AM
Shame is more like when something occurs that you know is wrong as an experience even if it is the first time one has experienced it; because the "feeling" was wrong.

Guilt is when one carries those feelings after having carried out the same thing ebven though they know or knew it was wrong to begin with.

Making excuses for whatever it is does not stop or prevent the craving desire or thirst for whatever it is.

However fortunately to prevent future harm of oneself and others?

One can change one's focus or attention by distracting oneself or removing ones consciousness of the eye or ear to some other place to focus on.

Like when some cannot seem to focus on one's eyes when speaking and start them wandering somewhere else? Their focus has moved from conversation to one of stimulation and the eye seeks something else as the ears were closed to what was being said.

Such a thing is very common and concentraition in the task at hand, the word in the ear will keep attention where it should be.

If a mood comes over someone? They have simply planted the seeds to cultivate that sort of behavior as a conditioned arising as a habit that will keep arising until they cut it off and it ceases to be a growth and the habit is broken.

By planting the mind or awareness elsewhere? That is the proper pruning to cut off those habits.

posted on Jun, 24 2017 @ 07:37 AM
a reply to: Bluesma

A most thoughtful post.

I think shame and guilt are closely allied, but the 2 definitions you offer are very good.

IMO, both are encouraged by organized religion, and are useful tools for manipulation of the individual. When these emotions are encouraged from a young age, the society that results is largely compliant and responsive to the use of those emotions.

posted on Jun, 24 2017 @ 11:08 AM

originally posted by: Salander
a reply to: Bluesma

A most thoughtful post.

I think shame and guilt are closely allied, but the 2 definitions you offer are very good.

IMO, both are encouraged by organized religion, and are useful tools for manipulation of the individual. When these emotions are encouraged from a young age, the society that results is largely compliant and responsive to the use of those emotions.

Yes, even though the distinction here is upon an integrated conscience, versus a external conscience , at the source, the code of ethic or moral does come from outside.

Even if children in a guilt society are expected to become autonomous and self regulating earlier than in a shame society (in the one I am in, in fact, people are never expected to become so, even as adults.) the moral or ethical code still is injected from the caretakers, the community.

For everyone who has that reflex of declaring "Lying is wrong! Period!" well, that was taught to us early on by our society.

The discussion this subject led to in a group of Americans in France this week was really interesting. This particular difference has caused us all confusion and usually a lot of anger at first.

Coming to understand the how the whole thing works as a system sort of aid one to be more accepting.

It doesn't matter your age here, strangers on the street, on the bus, in the waiting room, will suddenly start telling you how you should dress, what you should eat, how you should raise your children.... us americans find this terribly rude and invasive! But this is their way of being polite and good citizens) everyone is supposed to be putting pressure on each other.

It's funny to be faced with that, and my individualist/guilt society upbringing actually blocking me from answering by giving them some sort of orders and guidance in return. Because you are supposed to be thankful for their aid, and offer some yourself.

There's a lot of behaviors that differ that seem absurd at first.

posted on Jun, 24 2017 @ 04:38 PM
If security even glances at me when I walk into a store I instantly feel anxious even though I would never steal anything. So I don't think I would handle shame very well. Whereas guilt doesn't seem a great problem for me. It just requires introspection to fathom the reasons for stepping away from ones moral compass, reaffirming whats important in life, and that is being captain of our soul.

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