The Shackles of Shame

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Shame. Say the word out loud and feel it’s intense power.

The root of the word shame is thought to come from an older word meaning to cover, as in covering oneself. When we feel shame, we cover ourselves, literally and figuratively.

Eve was said to cover herself in the Garden of Eden when she realized she was naked. She became ashamed of her natural physical form, the essence of her human-ess.


Eve After the Fall, Auguste Rodin.
(Photo by MichaelLovesArt)

When we are shamed as children we are uncovered and our error is exposed; “Shame on you!”  or “You should be ashamed of yourself.” Yet, like Eve, as children we are often shamed for what is natural to us, i.e picking our nose, touching ourselves, or hitting our siblings.

The affect of shame, either taken on by oneself or given to us by others, can be subtle but devastating and long lasting. We can stuff shame down so deep inside that it becomes covered even to ourselves.

Yet the effect, like the word, is powerful. The lengths we will go to cover and hide our shame can keep us from ever fully living life. It is very hard to be happy carrying the ball and chain of shame.

We can become bound by the shame of who are or who we are not, what we do and what we don’t do, what we’ve done or what we failed to do, where we are in life or where we are not.

We can become so bound by shame that we stop moving, stop trying, stop expressing, stop loving. We will go into emotional hiding. We will go to great lengths to avoid anyone seeing us for who we think we are. God forbid we are uncovered as a fallible human being.

The Antidote for Shame

The antidote for shame is self forgiveness. We can accept our humanity, which includes the experience of triumph as well as failure. We can make amends, write a letter, seek absolution, apologize and ask for forgiveness.

And we must be willing to fail again. We must be willing to acknowledge that living fully means often falling short of the mark (the original meaning of “sin”). But first we must be willing to uncover the shame to ourselves, then to another. This takes courage and a desire to be free from hiding who and what we are.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” 

~Brene Brown (click on the link for her TED talk on shame.)

Thanks for reading,


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