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Guilt and Shame

The idea of guilt and shame has pervaded our culture. Many forms of religion make great use of this concept even as a core aspect of their philosophies. Through religion as well as secularity we are taught that we have done something wrong or are somehow lacking and must redeem ourselves for this failure.

Culturally we are saturated with the concept of punishment. If we do something wrong we are put in timeout, grounded or consequenced in some way. Jails and prisons are another mode of punishing people for doing something wrong. If we don't do well in school, make enough money or love someone correctly we may judge or be judged. I'm not against people being held accountable for their behaviors. I feel judgment and punishment lead to guilt and shame.

What about a different approach? What if we let go of the idea of redemption completely. Instead, we might substitute awareness, empathy and action. Realizing that we could have taken a different and perhaps better path, we might learn from the choices we make without guilt and shame.

Are we capable of this higher path? I think we are. It will take a good deal of internal work and overriding our conditioning for us to achieve it. With younger people we may shift how we educate them. We may also look at substitutes for punishment and mechanisms such as grades that label them. Again, accountability and strengthening skill sets are good.

For a political system intent on controlling its populace it is the right way. Depleted individuals often self sooth through purchasing things. If acquisition is esteemed then we can prove our success and status through this. Those who have less must have failed in some way. Folks must redeem themselves or feel shame.

A new way of approaching these issues require us to let go of absolutes including what it means to be successful and how to properly behave in our culture. What if when we feel guilt or shame and with it the need to defend or redeem ourselves we instead feel the joy of the experience of learning through living. With our energy diverted from judgement and punishment we can apply it to checking in to ourselves and those around us as we choose a different path.

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