“Shame on you!” used to be words that immediately required redress of behavior. Shaming fell out of favor when neighborhoods disintegrated into houses and we lost our porches and back-yard clotheslines. It’s reclaiming a negative popularity now, especially in terms of body-shaming. I hope that behind it is a desire to be non-judgmental, which I support whole-heartedly—except when it comes to…and we all have our exceptions, because being completely non-judgmental is not socially possible. Like so many other things, being non-judgmental is built on a scaffolding of other values, perhaps values for inclusion, social equity, and the golden rule, which would imply that one should value others as one values oneself. But even in the face of all of that, shame will not go away. The very fact of body-shaming shows us that we still resort to social pressure to get others to change.
Maybe we need to rethink shaming; parse it out more carefully. Jesus does so in Luke 6. An obvious parallel to the Beatitudes, Luke includes woes as well as blessings. Some excellent scholarship suggests that a better translation of “blessing” is “honorable,” and “woe,” is “shameless.” And so, it would read, “Honorable are you poor, for you will inherit the kingdom. Honorable are you hungry, for you will be filled… Shame on you rich, for what you have is all you will have. Shame on you full ones, for you will suffer want.” It’s a socio-political comment on the social order of the day. The rich have climbed to the top on the backs of the poor, and valued riches over relationships. The full-bellied have blinded themselves to the suffering of those with whom they share a world that is out of balance. Maybe we have forgotten that shame is really only a comment on behavior, not a commentary on value. They mean something only in community. They mean nothing to the one who is alone, and could mean everything to the one who is lonely.
In our lonely age, perhaps a little shame (applied to oneself) could help us get over ourselves enough to get connected.