The Shame of Shaming

Ever felt like you need to tell someone they should be ashamed of themselves? I have. I’ve felt the urge to call someone out for their shameful behavior, and admit that sometimes I’ve not only felt the urge but followed right on through with it and done my level best to shame them.

It’s not a pretty sight, and there’s nothing cute or funny in it like when this guy* does it:

Gomer Pyle

One big problem with calling someone out for their shameful behavior is it opens me up to criticism for all the things I should be ashamed of too.

I’m not a fan of that.

I don’t think that shaming others is the right way to deal with problems anyway. There might be a reason to tell someone they’re wrong, but it should never be at the expense of their dignity.

Error and Dignity.jpg

After all, every single person who acts shamefully is also a person who has been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:14.)

So when it comes to shameful behavior, I’d rather remember the caution Jesus gave us:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42.)

I don’t want to call out “Shame, shame!” I want to call out words of grace and mercy and kindness. And I want to receive those words as my sisters and brothers reach toward my eye to remove the speck or log or whatever I need help with.

That’s much better than shaming anyone.


*10,000 interwebz to anyone who identifies that character, and another 10,000 interwebz for the context in which he’d call out the shame. Multiple prizes will be awarded: every commenter who gives the correct or nearly correct answer, even if they got the answer by reading another comment, will win! Interwebz may be illusory and non-existent, but they certainly are worthless.


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19 Responses to The Shame of Shaming

  1. Jeannie says:

    Well golleee shazam, Tim, it’s Gomer Pyle. Every Saturday night for the last couple of years we’ve been watching Andy Griffith DVD’s as a family and we’re now in season 3, expecting Gomer to show up at any time.

    (BTW, a couple of years ago I wrote a funny Christmas story — at least I thought it was funny — for my church women’s group, based on the Bible study we’d done. That study included passages about Hosea and Gomer, so in my story I said that Gomer’s parents were huge Andy Griffith Show fans so that’s why they named her that.)

  2. Gomer Pyle. Two escaped prisoners rob the cash register, take Gomez hostage and make him drive them away in the tow truck.
    Never saw the show but your pic is named gomer-pyle.png and it contains a quote from the show.
    “For shame for shame for shame, evil thoughts and evil deeds always lead to ill-gotten gain…”

  3. I think it depends on the shameful behaviour.. We need to speak out if vulnerable people are being hurt by the behaviour.

    • Tim says:

      I won’t stop speaking out against shameful behavior, Darach, especially when it is hurting people. My point was only that I hope not to do it in a way that amounts to public shaming as I try to help people see these things.

  4. Laura Droege says:

    Well, Jeannie and Darach beat me to it: Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, either on the Andy Griffith Show or the spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (I had to do an internet search for the name of the spin-off, and I don’t know the context of the quote. But I can hear Jim Nabors’ voice saying it!)

    Regarding the post: when I see people misbehaving (the big, nasty, horrible things), it’s so hard not to use shaming tactics against them. It lends itself to clever put downs, for one thing, and we can impress others with our quick wit and intelligence. Calling out grace and mercy, especially when seeking to restore someone in the faith or to point out the injustice they are inflicting against the vulnerable, is difficult and requires a lot of thought and prayer. Shame is easy and quick; grace, not so much!

    • Tim says:

      That’s the difference I was seeing in it too, Laura. It’s easy to slap a scarlet letter on someone, but working to build others up in a grace-filled way takes effort.

  5. Pastor Bob says:

    Shame or jail? First costs the governing agency less.
    Shame or big fine? First costs the offender less.
    Americans seem to have short memories, so……

    But your point has validity nonetheless. We are enriched through discussion.
    ps…. the talent of Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle. Pretty good, eh?

    • Tim says:

      You get full marks all the way around, PB!

      • Pastor Bob says:

        A ps….
        One would think that since all legal activities are a matter of public record, and
        Courts are open to the public, and
        If it is interesting enough (sensational…), that
        This would be shame enough (if needed)?

  6. Ruth says:

    Well g-o-o-lley, shazaym! Gomer Pyle, the most cheerful, obedient and gormless, but kind-hearted soldier ever other than Forrest Gump! Jim Nabors a committed Christian and and the possessor of one of the most beautiful singing voices imaginable! So intriguing to hear him sing with no sign of that rather grating but upbeat drawl from his character on TV, watching different people react to the interaction between him and the Sargeant was food for thought.
    ‘The Scarlett Letter’ is one of my favourite books, fascinating way the husband works a campaign of nervous guilt against the guilty pastor, whilst the community condemns her and her wild intriguing child, and she condemns herself more than anyone else, and lives a life of self-castigating shame. Watching her slowly work her day back into her community because of the very badge of shame she so beautifully embroidered is such a cleverly woven story line.
    There is such a lesson on sin, guilt, shame, judgement and forgiveness in this book, it should be a must for those who enjoy Nathaniel Hawthorne’s type of writing!
    I think it also speaks volumes about how we should approach shaming some one, which is never! We are free of shame because of Christ, how can we be greater judges than Him, although bringing a problematic situation to a proper end should be our goal, through His leading.
    I’m sure you, as a judge Tim, don’t have to shame anyone before you, must justice must be done, and I’m sure you do that in an even-handed appropriate manner as a child of the King.

    • Tim says:

      Christ’s work which leads to freedom from shame is what frees us from feeling like we have to shame others as well, I think. I certainly am in no position to shame others when I have been forgiven so much for my own shameful behavior.

      • Ruth says:

        I do agree. I can’t shame anyone until I have nothing to be ashamed of, and that won’t be until I’m singing up a storm in Heaven. All we can do is continue to bring it all to the Lord and know, as you say, we are not shamed by Him, and that makes us free.

  7. Margaret says:

    Love your blog, so glad I am following you. Shaming others feels like a personal attack, very different from someone encouraging me by sharing their own insights that make me think about areas I need to work on in my life. At times I have wanted to respond on other blogs when people make comments about other commenters that have felt like they were being shamed, however, not wanting the same attacks done to me I have kept quiet.

  8. helen says:

    As a preacher friend stated in a sermon many years ago, we never know what God is doing in other people’s lives. It was one of the few sermons I have never forgotten.

  9. Morning Coffee says:

    I think in some ways there is not enough shame in our society, or rather, not enough mechanisms for handing out shame well. Oh, we have a lot of shame kicking around, but it’s all about our societal obsessions. These used to be about sex, and are now about money. Neither is especially interesting or productive.
    If you want to see serious major league shame being handled, which is to say, people being forced to address the consequences of their actions, you have to go to a felony sentencing hearing. Which is pretty much too late, right? Misdemeanor sentencing is too much a volume business for serious reflection. So I’ve gotten into the pre-emptive shaming business myself. When I come across someone egregiously negligent in driving — reading email on a cellphone in stop and go traffic, here in DC — I pull up alongside and make a little speech. I say, very nicely, that if they kill someone’s kid that way, they’re aren’t allowed to say “I’m so so so so so sorry” afterwards. Because you aren’t making a mistake: you are making a choice. So, please, if, say, you cripple some ten year old in a backseat, be honest and tell them you just couldn’t be bothered to concern yourself with the safety of others.
    And then I smile and wave and drive ahead, so they can’t retort.
    Is that me being a jerk, as my son often tells me? I dunno. Feels about right. Why does shame have to be matured to felony-weight?

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