It seems that shame is often misinterpreted as conscience, which is a sense of moral responsibility people have in front of other people or society.
In Greece there was Aidos, goddess of Shame, Modesty, Respect, Reverence, and Humility. She was meant to restrain people from doing wrong.
There are sociopaths, people who lack the ability to feel or sympathize with others. They never feel guilt, shame or remorse. So, in some sense shame, guilt and remorse helps us to stay on the ethical track. But, how much of it is adequate? I came across a story called “The Tale of Abu Hasan and the Fart” where Abu Hasan felt humiliated and destroyed his good life. Do you think Abu Hasan could act differently?
What is shame for you? Is it conscience? Honor? Does it help you adapt in society or does it limit your self-expression? If it limits your self-expression, I invite you to my mini-free online course on toxic shame and self-actualization. Message me for more information.
Here is the story…
“Abu Hasan was wealthy, clever and generous, and the most eligible bachelor in Baghdad. When his friends would reproach him for remaining single, he would reply: “I am free, why must I become a slave?” But eventually he agreed to wed and everyone rejoiced. A fabulous ceremony was prepared, the greatest Baghdad had seen in years. Tables were laden with chickens stuffed with pistachios, whole roast goats with fresh dates, pastries with walnuts and cream, and sherbets and sweets of all varieties. Abu Hasan and his friends reclined on silk cushions smoking pipes of honey tobacco. The bride came forth wearing the first of seven dresses, a turquoise gown dripping with gems and silver, and each following dress was more lovely than the last. She retired to the chamber to await her husband, who entertained his guests with a great store of wit and fable. At last, when his duties as host had been fulfilled, Abu Hasan bid his guests good night. But he had eaten and drunk so heavily that as he rose from his cushions he released a thunderous fart that echoed from wall to wall and silenced every voice in the room.
The guests at once began talking, pretending they hadn’t noticed, but Abu Hasan was covered with unbearable shame. He slipped out of the house, saddled his horse and rode to Basra, where he boarded a ship bound for India. There he soon secured himself a position in the services of a Rajah, and came to be loved and respected by all in the court. But he was never seen to smile, and every evening he would climb to the highest tower to gaze in the direction of his homeland. After ten years had passed, he packed up his belongings and set sail back to his native country. Once on land, he rode to Baghdad and paused at the outskirts of the city, hoping to find out whether anyone remembered him any more. Eventually he passed a hut where a mother was putting her daughter to sleep. He heard the girl ask: “Mother, what year was I born?” “Oh, that’s easy to remember, dear,” her mother replied, “You were born in the year that Abu Hasan farted.” Hearing these words, the shame returned and all hope died in Abu Hasan’s heart. He fled the country, never to be seen again.” #shame