Can a better understanding of shame lead us to see its positive contribution to human life?
For many people, shame really is a destructive and health-disrupting force. Too often it cripples and silences victims of other people's shameful behavior, and research has demonstrated clearly the damaging effects of shame on our emotional wellbeing. To combat this, a mini-industry of resources and popular therapies has emerged to help people free themselves from shame.
And yet, shame can contribute to a healthy emotional and moral experience. Some behavior is shameful, and sometimes we ought to be ashamed by wrongs we've committed. Eastern and Western cultures alike have long seen a social benefit to shame, and it can rightly cultivate virtues both public and personal.
So what are we to make of shame?
Philosopher and author Gregg Ten Elshof examines this potent emotion carefully, defining it with more clarity, distinguishing it from embarrassment and guilt, and carefully tracing the positive role shame has played historically in contributing to a well-ordered society.
While casting off unhealthy shame is always a positive, For Shame demonstrates the surprising, sometimes unacknowledged ways in which healthy shame is as needed as ever. On the other side of good shame, lie virtues such as decency, self-respect, and dignity—virtues we desire but may not realize shame can grant.