I’m reading a lot of discipline books, and I’m struck by the negative references to shame.
What is shame? “A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety,” according to Websters.
Parents often expect things of their children—particularly toddlers—that are beyond a child’s capabilities. When the child fails, some parents will shame him. Shame on the parents, I say. As do the experts. But then we part ways.
See, I don’t believe that all shame is bad. Think about it: Wouldn’t it be good if dishonest CEOs had some shame? Wouldn’t it be good if the Girls Next Door had some shame? Wouldn’t it be good if the marketers of formula had some shame?
Shame is an appropriate response when you’ve done something unseemly. Without it, there’d be a lot more sociopaths in the world.
“But if you allow your child to feel shame,” the books say, “he’ll think your love is conditional.” Quite the contrary, I say. When the time comes that Peter deliberately disobeys me (we're not there yet), I certainly hope he feels ashamed. Because then, he’ll get to know my love in a whole new way. He’ll find that I still love him even when he’s at his worst.
Unless you know what it means to feel shame, you’ll never appreciate what it means to be forgiven.