Society mostly shuns shame

December 16, 2009


Early in my column-writing career I took note of comments by the singer Madonna. A skin magazine had published nude photos of her, taken when she was a teenager. An interviewer asked if she was ashamed about having posed for them. She threw the question back, saying something like, “What have I got to be ashamed of?”

Today, shame seems to be something experienced after an action, if it is felt at all. Shame now follows what used to be considered shameful behavior before everything became relative and tolerable in a society that judges nothing, except those who judge certain behavior to be wrong.

Some commentators claim that Tiger Woods’ multiple extramarital affairs might be a “teachable moment.” If Woods, along with some celebrities and philandering politicians, ignore the ancient prophets and proverbs that warn of the consequences of infidelity, who among us moderns has the moral standing to teach them, and average men, how not to cause serious harm to themselves and their families?

There are standards for swinging a golf club. Violate them and the ball goes awry. There are standards for living an ordered life. Violate them and your life can land in a “bunker.”

It would be difficult to improve on this sage advice: “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” (Proverbs 5:3-6)

Everything in modern culture seems to deplore the straight and promote the crooked. People who wish to promote the tawdry, and the commerce that makes many of them a fine living, brand those who seek to remind others of eternal truths as “fanatics” and “fundamentalists.” But there are casualties to such behavior, much as there is collateral damage to an out of control Congress that spends money as if we had it in the bank while mortgaging our country to foreigners, many of whom wish for its destruction.

What is wrong with such people? Why won’t they see the consequences of errant behavior? It isn’t that they can’t. They can. But they have chosen not to, which is worse than not seeing. Having an unavoidable accident is different from driving drunk and having a head-on collision that leads to the death of the other driver. Is there too little information about the consequences of drunk driving?

Like the inmates who thought they could commit the perfect crime and avoid arrest, there are those who have become prisoners of their lower nature, believing they could get away with bad behavior. Their enablers, flunkies, political advisers and interest groups tell them to keep doing what they are doing because it provides them employment or political power.

At the heart of every “sin” (if I may use a word that has been replaced by the less judgmental word “dysfunctional”) is pride. The Satan character in the film “The Devil’s Advocate” says “pride is my favorite sin.” That’s because it leads to all the others, including sexual infidelity and the infidelity of politicians who abuse the power given to them by the people, becoming poor stewards of other people’s money.

Let’s not have any more of this business about someone being able to be one person in private and another in public. Anyone who breaks a pledge to his wife to remain faithful is more likely than not to engage in public behavior that is shameful, suspect and in some cases illegal.

Dictionary.com defines shame: “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper ...”

The definition presumes a standard by which “honorable” and “proper” might be measured. We have abandoned that standard in favor of doing whatever makes us feel good. And then we feign surprise when growing numbers among us surrender to the “music of the night.”

That’s a shame.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Interesting column coming from Cal, who clearly knows no shame.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 7 months ago

Pride goeth before a fall but sometimes free falling is a blast.

brujablanco 5 years, 7 months ago

Don't usually agree with Cal, but this verse is a great description.

“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” (Proverbs 5:3-6)

meggers 5 years, 7 months ago

Sure Cal. Let's go back to the days when a woman wearing pants was "shameful", sex before marriage was "shameful", coming from a poor family was "shameful", being gay was "shameful", being naked was "shameful", being seen in the company of black people was "shameful", and a woman being unmarried after 30, or a bad cook or housekeeper was "shameful".

Ah, the good old days.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 7 months ago

brujablanco (Anonymous) says… Don't usually agree with Cal, but this verse is a great description.

"(Bible verse that blames adultery on the woman)"

georgiahawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Cal is an idiot, this column proves it!

I do not want to live in his world!

Conservatives are anti-freedom! Why do they want to destroy America?

denak 5 years, 7 months ago

Overall, I actually agree with Cal. As a society, I do think we celebrate the bizarre, the scandalous and the worst in people. Things that would have brought shame and embarrassment in the past, now are considered the norm and something to be revealed in.

We make celebrities out of individuals whose bad behavior is shameful. We would rather watch, and by extension celebrate and promote, a bunch of moronic 20 somethings drinking, binging and getting into fights (ie Jersey Shore, Girls Gone Wild, Paris Hilton) than to promote the sacrafices of the men and women in uniform. Why aren't there any t.v. shows about that? The answer is simple, because it doesn't titilate. Who cares if a man jumps on a grenade and saves his fellowservicemen and women. No, it is much more fun to watch self-absorbed individuals pass out.

Males today see people getting drunk, committing crimes and hitting females and then getting reality shows out of it. Really, these days how can you tell your son to not talk about his sexual exploits when Levi Johnston is getting 25,000 dollars to bare all and talk bout his relationship with Bristol Palin. Once upon a time, if a young man bragged about who he had sex with, it was a source of shame. Now, it is celebrated.

And our girls, our daughters, now think it is "ok" to make sex tapes and have them "accidently" stolen. To them that isn't a source of shame....that is a career move.

So, in this case, I agree with Cal. We could use a little more "shame" in our media and in our behavior. And no, not to the point where we are repressed just to the point that our girls value themselves and don't think being called a "whore" is a compliment and to the point that boys/men understand that keeping their mouth shut is the real sign of what it means to be a man.


Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 7 months ago

Dena, I agree with you. I hate the way that women talk about themselves and each other. You should be ashamed of some actions to the point where it motivates you to not do it, or to change your behavior if you do it. People can change but we need to see the change.

brujablanco 5 years, 7 months ago

The bible does give equal time to men, Moocher.

Proverbs 6:32 32 He who commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding. He who does it destroys his own soul.

I just like the syntactical flow of that particular verse.

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