Friday, March 13, 2009

Mudwitch, for shame

Thank you, Mudwitch, for your comments. You suggest that "moral codes are our human fine tuning of our genetically inherited shaming mechanisms" and quote Heifetz, "some of us are ambivalent about giving power, and other are ambivalent about taking it. Having been disappointed or abused in these relationships, some of which may strongly resemble dominance, many of us do not like to be dependent, or depended upon." You conclude, "I'd like to see UUs redeem shame, give it the respect it deserves as parent to our individual conscience and guardian of our cohesiveness, while never, ever underestimating its power."

I think we're on the same page. Too often we liberals deny the power of shame, usually by trying to overcome it with mere intellectualism. Or we operate out of our shame, unconsciously. Speaking only for myself, I would like to acknowledge my shame, drag it into fuller awareness, then work with it more consciously. I could then embrace any life-affirming shame (that children in my town go to bed hungry and homeless; that my government tortures) and work through any shame that is life-denying. As Christine Robinson noted, I have experienced shame around my spirituality; as Thandeka diagnosed, I experience shame around race and class. Such shame inhibits authentic relationship with people of different faith traditions, races or classes. (And following Heifetz, part of my authority issues stem from shame, too?)

I think Geertz wrote about religion orienting emotion within larger ideological frameworks. So far, much of my shame has been oriented in unproductive, even counterproductive, directions. Perhaps UUism can yet find a way to effectively and gracefully acknowledge and orient our human shame.


At 8:19 AM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"I could then embrace any life-affirming shame (that children in my town go to bed hungry and homeless; that my government tortures)"

You might want to add that your church does little or nothing to provide genuine restorative justice to victims of clergy misconduct Chip. That is pretty darn shameful in my books.

I am actually stunned by the apparent utter shamelessness of so many U*Us. I had seriously considered making a picket sign slogan displaying the slogan -


but thought the better of it when I realized that the leaders and members of the U*U "church" in question would probably take it as a compliment. . .

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Mudwitch said...

I have come to the conclusion that the topic of shame is so powerful that it's hard to discuss. Bless you for your courage in addressing it.

I started my exploration of shame after leaving a staff position in one of our large congregation. I left feelings I had some amends to make due to my lacked of conflict transformation skills, that my ministers with their combined attributes of courage and compassion hadn't been able to offer me much enlightment plus I wanted to understand welcoming as more than a means towards the ends of growth, but as a spiritual practice. All three of these came together for me from reading Fowler's Faithful Changes, Donald Nathanson's Shame, Pride, Sex and the Birth of the Self and Radical Hospitality by Homan and Pratt. (I was unemployed and had time to read.) The most pratical spiritual practices I've found so far have been the study & practice of nonviolent communications and the cultivation of humility, humility, humility.

Restorative justice around issues of victims of clergy misconduct really goes to the heart of the matter. Oh if we could make as much progress on restoration as we have with OWL in our faith development programming.

Understanding the role of shame in my own family dynamics I've seen the pendulum swing of shame to shamelessness and back again. I've been a UU for some 3 decades and there was a certain degree of shamelessness in my congregation that actually felt welcoming to me in the beginning. I'm not saying it was healthy; I'm saying it felt like home. It takes us back to Haidt's observation, socially acceptable shaming behaviors provide alot of the order, the "it" liberals don't get.

I love wrestling with all this, but it is late and I need to finish a column on stewardship.

Thanks for the forum

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"Restorative justice around issues of victims of clergy misconduct really goes to the heart of the matter."


Believe it or not the Word Verification Code for this comment is uncle. The Emerson Avenger looks forward to the day when the U*UA will finally get around to saying 'uncle' and U*Unconditionally sU*Urender to U*U Jihad Farces, I mean Forces. ;-)

At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

remember, young jedi, that nathanson (as in tomkins and nathanson) argue that shame is not a feeling; it is an interruptor of a physiological experience of interest-excitement. The tension between ongoing interest-excitement and the interruptor shame is what creates memories and makes it harder for us to go through our shame and learn from it. I'm just sayin.'

love, rev. wonder woman

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Chip said...

Thank you, Rev. Wonder Woman. You are right; Nathanson refers to shame as a "painful amplification of any impediment to positive affect...Shame interrupts." He also writes, "very little...calls attention to the nature of the self as powerfully as does shame affect." (page 210 of the 1992 hardback)
Shame is a tool, a teacher. It is difficult and painful, but that pain focuses our awareness like little else. And where better to focus on transformation--of our shame and of our selves--than our congregations?!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Yet another Unitarian*Universalist amen for you Chip.

They say that charity begins at home. I think that justice, equity, and compassion in human relations should begin at home too. I have often made the point to Unitarian*Universalists that they lack moral authority to point the finger at injustices and abuses outside if the U*U World when they do so little to responsibly redress various injustices and abuses that occur within the U*U religious community. This is particularly true when U*Us, including U*U clergy, publicly and stridently decry clergy misconduct in other denominations while turning a willfully blind eye to the clergy misconduct of U*U ministers, some of which is every bit as bad as that of the clergy of other religious communities. I wish that I did not have to publicly shame U*Us about clergy misconduct and other internal U*U injustices and abuses, but the UUA and a certain unmentionable U*U congregation leave me with virtually no other options to seek some genuine justice and equity for myself and other people who are victims of U*U clergy misconduct and/or other injustices and abuses perpetrated by U*Us. I look forward to the day when the UUA finally gets around to responsibly addressing the "obviously deep concerns" that I have to share and genuinely stands on the side of love by making a serious effort top provide real and tangible restorative justice for ALL victims of clergy misconduct of all kinds.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Mudwitch said...

Greetings Rev. Wonder Woman. I am past both being young or even hankering after youth, none the less, I'll claim the mantel of "young jedI" to ask this question. How does one go about sharing Nathanson's ideas without going into a mini-lecture on Affect Psychology? I went from readng Fowler to Nathanson, otherwise I know nothing of Affect Psychology, whether it is accepted or controversal theory? Yet if I want to share my enthusiasm I find myself givng mini-lectures and watching people's eyes glaze over. Havng found a few other souls that find this topic of interest has been a delight for me, which leave me aware of how easily I might feel embarassed if my interest is interrupted, even in this relatively anonymous forum.


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