Shame is good for you

Phillipe has an excellent post on moral excellence and the value of shame.

To be human is to mess up. Otherwise we would be God (personally I don’t want the job). It is our effort to learn, to grow and to progress in a conscious fashion in spite of ourselves that is what moral and spiritual development is all about. Take that away and where would we be? Pretty bored and stunted in our development. One of the mysteries of life is that God makes use of imperfect instruments like ourselves to achieve His will in the world. It will never cease to amaze me.


God guides and blesses us according to our effort, rather than a particular outcome. Outcomes are ultimately the fruit of the dynamic interplay of human striving and divine assistance. It’s the striving that really counts. Personally, I’d rather be part of a community of imperfect people striving to be their best, than people who’ve already attained perfection (or at least think they have!).

Good stuff.

Sometimes I lament that our society has rejected shame and guilt. But I don’t think that’s right. Everyone still has a strong sense of shame. The difference is that many people, what you might call social or moral liberals, have a different value system so they place their shame in other areas. Sexual immorality is not shameful to them. But other things, like throwing a recycleable in the trash, can induce intense feelings of guilt.

Not that that’s bad. I recycle. I’m just saying, a sense of shame is normal. If you get the wrong spiritual training, though (like what folks get in our culture), your sense of shame can be warped, and you’ll become numb and even approving of things for which you ought to feel shame.


2 Responses

  1. Jonah, let me just say that your blog is fascinating. I am a Baha’i from a Catholic background and have enjoyed reading all of your posts. Your sincerity and fair-mindedness are evident and I see a great deal of truth in what you say. Keep it up!

  2. Thanks!

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