I am ashamed of myself.
Oh, I was often ashamed of myself as a kid.
Mostly ashamed if I had been naughty. And when I was naughty, I would sometimes attempt (with no success) to lie my way out of it. And so then I would be doubly ashamed. Ashamed I had misbehaved and ashamed I had lied.
And as I grew older, I realized that the lie was worse. That was a good lesson to learn, and it served me well as an adult. I found it much better to confess to a mistake right away, both in my personal life and in business. To say, “I was wrong” and get on with my day. Better for all those around me, and much much better for my peace of mind.
I find now that I am not too much ashamed of anything I say or do. I try to be kind and honest and try my best.
I’ve been thinking about actions over the past several years that I am ashamed of. And I can only think of one. A few months ago, while shopping, I dropped a rather expensive makeup compact and it smashed to pieces. There was no one around, and in a weak moment, I walked away. I know I should have brought my accident to someone’s attention, but I did not. That shames me. So last week, I took one small step towards making it right. I didn’t have the nerve to confess, but I went back to the store and bought another identical compact. But I know that’s not really good enough – I gave them my money, but I have a nice product in return. I should have a smashed product in return. Maybe next week I will be braver.
But that is not why I am ashamed today.
I am not ashamed for something I have done.
I am ashamed for something I did not do.
Not long ago I was speaking to an acquaintance. A person who is not a close friend, but someone I have known for a long time. I have always liked this person. I’ve thought her funny and spunky and tough.
When I ran into her rather unexpectantly, she complained about her job. No big deal. She always complains about her job. Everyone always complains about their jobs. So I nodded and smiled sympathetically. Yeah, work can be irritating. I’m retired, but I remember.
And then she said something not funny or spunky or tough. She said something blatantly racist.
And I said nothing.
I nodded and smiled. And eventually said goodbye and went on my way.
And I have felt ashamed ever since.
My silence is so much more shameful than not paying for makeup that I broke.
In order to be pleasant, in order to be ‘friendly’ – I became complicit in hate.
I cannot make it right. I cannot take back my silence.
But I promise to never be silent on hatred again.
I need to speak up. To say:
I do not like that kind of talk.
I do not feel that way.
Some folks today sneer at the concept of political correctness. As if it is a sign of weakness to rein in your ugliest thoughts. That it is fine to even have such ugly thoughts. I am appalled that so many people feel that they are now permitted to say whatever hateful thing they want. This is not right.
I want our future to be better than that. I want our present to be better than that.
I want to be better than that.
So I’m ashamed.