Why aren't we talking about shame? ~ Dr. Brene Brown


I wanted to wait to post this later but it's too good.

This is profound, "We can't talk about race without talking about shame." ~ Dr. Brene Brown.

Shame is another topic that many Christian leaders don't talk much about. It's getting ridiculous that secular scholars have such a better understand of human nature than many theologians and pastors. I'm starting to lose interest in reading Christian writers on these topics because many don't seem to have many insights beyond the old formulas that tempt us into thinking that being human is liability to oneself and the world at large. The connection between race and shame is so central that I can't believe it didn't lead conversations on racial reconciliation in the 1970s and 1980s.

Moreover, I agree with Dr. Brown that we have a shame epidemic in our country. It's so bad that people turn to narcissism as an antidote but, as we all know, that approach fails.

Shame versus guilt, says Brown:

Shame drives two big tapes -- "never good enough" and, if you can talk it out of that one, "who do you think you are?" The thing to understand about shame is it's not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is "I am bad." Guilt is "I did something bad." How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, "I'm sorry. I made a mistake?" How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I'm sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I'm sorry. I am a mistake.

There's a huge difference between shame and guilt. And here's what you need to know. Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And here's what you even need to know more. Guilt, inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we've done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It's uncomfortable, but it's adaptive.

Why do you think conservative Protestants rarely seek to help people deal with issues of shame?


Thank you for providing this on your blog. It is beautiful, powerful and true.

Shame has definitely been a neglected topic for as central as it is to Genesis 3.

The folks over at CCEF seem to be doing their best to bring it to our attention, though:



Two things. I linked to this on Twitter, and got a quick response from someone studying at RTS that they had just watched this video for class. Great!

Second, this article/post links white male shame to white male terror.

"It is sometimes suggested that white men have become a threat to themselves and others because we sense our grasp on the reins of power at the heart of the American engine slipping away. I think the real mechanism is deeper and more gripping. White men in America are embroiled in an apparatus of shame: the shame of the legacy of slavery and genocide on which the country is built, the shame of squandered, selfish privilege, the shame of our failed experiments in economics, our disregard for ecology, our blithering, triumphalist global politics, which have left behind a broken world of economic and social destruction."

Fascinating, given other recent discussions here.

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This page contains a single entry by Anthony Bradley published on August 8, 2012 3:17 PM.

Self-hatred, the forgotten human condition was the previous entry in this blog.

No, we are not at war with our culture is the next entry in this blog.


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