As a church, parents and ministers of the Gospel, our role is to care for the well-being of the souls of those we shepherd. It is incumbent on us as shepherds to understand that this position requires a deep understanding of the negative effect of shame. The maturity of the sheep does not depend on criticism, or shaming, but on the gentle understanding and wisdom by which they are led. However, this process is impossible when the shepherd himself is ashamed. His own shame produces in him a state of defensiveness; anxiety and fear and the rod and staff intended for comfort and guidance of the sheep become punishing tools.
To better understand shame and its effect, let us take a brief look at what some of the experts have to say about the subject. In the last 15-20 years there has been an explosion of studies examining shame and its effect on children and later in the adult individual. Erick Erikson, in his study of human development, suggested that the second stage of development that takes place between one year of age and 18 months is “Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt.” It is the child’s response to the parent or caretaker’s behavior in response to the child’s needs. The reason for this is that in order for shame to develop we have to care about the opinion of anothers before his/her behavior can affect us.
Russian Philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, in his book The Justification of the Good, states that what makes us truly human is our capacity to feel shame. He writes: “This (shame) is the true spiritual root of all human good and the distinctive characteristic of man as a moral being.” Pg.135
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy