notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Shame

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.

 

 

45 Comments

  1. Don’t be ashamed. You learned something. You’ll do better next time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ellen

    Your post reminds me of something I repeated to my children that my Gram had said many years ago. “The unacceptable has become acceptable!” She did not mean acceptable to everyone, but to too many. In today’s society it seems more relevant than in Gram’s time. It becomes imperative for those of us who still find certain things unacceptable to not remain silent. Our silence implies our acceptance! Thank-you for this inspiring post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. Your Gram was right. And we need to speak out more. I don’t want my silence to imply agreement or acceptance.

      Like

  3. I agree with Wrong above — you’ll do better next time. Sometimes it takes us time to react when we are surprised by something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was taken by surprise, but I should have been firm in my polite rejection of her racism. I hope to be better prepared if there is a next time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • With the way discourse is going, there will be. ☹️

        Like

  4. Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We are all works in progress aren’t we? I have so many examples like yours when I hadn’t lived up to the standards I wanted for myself. Noticing is often the first step. Tomorrow is a new day and we get to start over. Isn’t life kind?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Life is very kind. I will get another chance, I hope, to be a better person.

      Like

  6. The gift of grace is an amazing thing. You can’t change how you feel, we have to acknowledge our emotions, but as everyone has said, you recognize it and are holding yourself accountable to do/be better. The gift of grace allows us just that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I hope to do better in the future. I consider myself a good and kind person at heart – I just need to be a stronger person in the face of hatred.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. try and try and again try its a life dont be shame ❤

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    • Yes, thank you.There is always an opportunity to be better than the day before.

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      • Yes that’s called the spirit love it ❤

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  8. I’m not sure you should feel ashamed for not speaking up when that person said something that was ‘unacceptable’ to you. It’s unlikely your discomfort or disapproval would have any affect on her (people with those kinds of opinions aren’t easily swayed by those who don’t agree with them). We live in a society where too many people feel they are entitled to spread their opinions around, no matter how ill-formed or ‘politically incorrect’ they may be (and sometimes they do it just for the shock value). Rather than arguing with them (especially over social media!) I’ve found its best to simply walk away (and make sure I never make those same kinds of mistakes – THAT would be shameful).

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    • I agree that sometimes it is best to walk away, but here I think I should have said something. At least, “I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.”

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  9. There seems to be a line somewhere about these things. When an issue like that (racist comments) comes up and it is a family member or a close friend, I let them have it. They get my opinion of what they have said or done in spades. It may be one of those things we have to agree to disagree on but we both know where the other stands. When it is someone you barely know or as you said “an acquaintance” it is harder to judge what you can say. You don’t know what their reaction will be. Let’s face it, there are a lot of nutbars out there and usually they have, to me, unacceptable or offensive beliefs. We live in the upper half of a house and another couple lives in the bottom half. They are nice and we get along well but we are not close or even friends, really. Since this past presidential election we have learned that they are very much like your acquaintance. I was shocked. Did not agree with them. Kept my mouth shut and moved on. I honestly wasn’t sure if our living arrangements would become a little or a lot uncomfortable. OK, that’s a lot of words to explain what I’m trying to say and I’m still not sure if I said it right.

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    • It’s hard to know when to be silent and when to speak up. But I think in this case I would feel better about myself if I had just said politely that I don’t share her feelings.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We all screw up and we’re all works-in-progress. You *will* do better next time, because this post makes it clear that you’re not afraid to look critically at yourself in order to see how you can. As my mom says, just do the next right thing–it’s the only way to put the past behind us and move forward in a positive way.
    Great post!

    Like

    • “Just do the next right thing” – I love the very idea of that! What a great way to express it. Thank you, and I will try to do the next right thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You raise a good point about missed opportunities, so thanks, however ashamed seems weighty, how about disappointed in yourself? . . . just saying

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    • You are kind, and we all need kindness…. I will consider myself disappointed in myself. It helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes and I view disappointment is an evaluation that leads to a better me. . . . just saying

        Like

  12. Linda

    The same thing has happened to me, and I, too, felt ashamed. You have given me the words and courage to use next time. Thank you.

    Like

    • I hope we both have courage the next time. But it’s too bad there will be a next time, don’t you think?

      Like

  13. There’s always a next time. I’d take any comments away from personal opinion and avoid the “I” – something like “you can’t generalise” or “isn’t that a bit racist?”

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    • Yes, I don’t want to be mean – even to a mean person. Then I am not that different – just a different kind of hateful. But I don’t want to acquiesce by my silence either.

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  14. I have definitely felt embarrassed, and bad about myself for my own actions in the past. I tried to learn from those experiences and become a better person. Since I can control my actions and own the consequences, my embarrassment never rose to the level of full on shame. I never felt true shame until I was much older. The shame was brought on not by something I did or was responsible for, but due to the actions of someone that I loved dearly, and thought loved me as well. It turns out I was wrong about this other person and that individual hurt me in an extremely public way. Even though the situation was not my fault or caused by myself, the fact that so many people knew about it has caused me amazing pain, embarrassment and yes, shame. Shame in that I did not know what this person was doing, that they lied to my face and I couldn’t detect the deceit, that others did not tell me what was happening and in effect protected the liar and not me. Shame that I allowed it to happen and that I still have to see these people in the future. This is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life and find a way to come to terms with if I am ever to trust another person, fully, again. Shame comes in many forms and I only hope we can all learn and heal from its effects. Sorry If I got a little too wordy for everyone 🙂

    Like

    • I am so sorry. That must be so difficult for you to bear. Even when the shame should be on the other person, we sometimes can’t help for feel it in our humiliation. But hold your head up – you know the truth, and the people who care about you know it too. There are many people hoping you will be happy again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your kind words, I will try to remember them when it gets tough 🙂

        Like

  15. Ray G

    Well, that “shame” you feel may be misplaced. You do not know, positively, whether your friend really felt that way. Unless she persisted with her feelings and offered more thoughts to back them up, she herself may be guilty of trying to make an impression on you by saying what she did. Your silence could be interpreted as you not reinforcing her statement, or a simple denial by remaining silent. By being quiet you may simply have avoided an argument, something I and many others do all the time. Your description of the incident implies that it was rather short. You don’t say that she expounded on her nastiness or kept commenting on it afterward. If she did, I’m sure you would have given her the depth of your disdain.

    Like

    • From her manner, she expected me to agree. I feel really bad that anyone could think I would feel that way.

      Like

  16. You shouldn’t be ashamed when things like this happen we are often shocked and left speechless and it isn’t till later we think I should have said something, did something relaid my true feelings on what was said and we beat ourselves up over something we cannot change, the moment has passed

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    • I can’t take it back. You’re right; it’s over. But I want to be prouder of myself if such a thing should happen again.

      Like

  17. This was a thinker article. A very good one. It makes me think of all the times I’ve just gone with the flow. My late father in law was very racist, and I called him on it all the time. But that was family. A stranger — that’s a different story. Ashamed is a harsh word. And I don’t think you should be ashamed — maybe more like embarrassed. Uncomfortable. But you make me think. Thank you.

    Like

    • I am disappointed by my own behavior. I think it was rather cowardly to say nothing. But I will do better next time, I hope.

      Like

  18. I think you used a line here that you could have used with your friend. “I don’t agree with that.” It’s not offensive…it’s not pointing out SHE’S wrong…just that you don’t agree. And if she’s decent she’ll listen to why you don’t agree. And if not…well…at least you stood up for what’s right.

    Like

    • Thanks. I think that is a good response too. There was a time when I was braver when I would say that. I often would try to be nice about it and say something like, “Not everyone feels that way – I don’t.”

      Like

  19. Pam

    I agree with Dawnkinster. You can say that you disagree without saying that your friend is wrong (although she is). That might be the end of a friendship. I like saying “I don’t see it that way” for myself. If you are too direct, people will be offended and then they will never consider your side. And I have racist family members that I need to say this to and haven’t had the courage to. Maybe next time. Reading your great post has helped me be prepared for the next time. Thanks!

    People think they have the right to say hateful things about others now because, well, look at our #1 national role model. I hope parents are not letting their kids watch. We can’t let them grow up thinking such behavior and speech is the norm.

    Like

  20. This is an opportunity for me. I recently joined a group of people with a shared interest. At my first gathering, I picked up on some rather subtle racism. I responded in a kind of tentative “that’s not the way it is” way, but not challenging. I am about to meet with these people again, and I’m putting my radar up for anything else like it, and then I’ll have to figure out how to respond. So you’ve given me food for thought.

    Like

  21. It is very hard to speak up when someone you like says something that is racist (or bigoted towards any other group for that matter.) Sometimes I remain silent, because I don’t want to stir up an argument or make the person angry at me. But other times I’m learning to speak up in a non-confrontational way, to let them know that I don’t share their opinion, and why. Honestly, I find this easier to do with racism than when someone is talking politics and going on and on about what evil half-wits the opposing political side is. For some reason, I have found people more open to having their prejudices on race challenged than their prejudices on politics. But in my book, hate is hate, no matter who is on the receiving end.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My mother called it shame, I call it awareness. Remind yourself: I am alive. I am here. I am trying. I’m doing my best. And then you become better, congrats!🍾

    Like

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