A Little More Shame


I always admired and appreciated the nuggets of wisdom that my grandmother would share with me as a child. There was one things she used to say, thought, that has only begun to really make sense to me now. “I wonder what ever happened to shame?”, she would ask. “People have forgotten hot to be ashamed and they have almost forgotten how to be embarrassed.”

She’d often talk about how the world had changed and people no longer believed in shame. She thought that the world had become a great deal more mean spirited and selfish because of it. In my infinite teenage wisdom, I thought that she was just too old fashioned to appreciate the freedom and possibilities afforded to us in the brave new world where everyone could do what they wanted to do without the burden of silly old fashioned shame. As I get older and hopefully at least a little bit wiser, I’ve started to understand just how right she was.

Last night, Sarah and I were jogging on a narrow sidewalk when we came up behind a mother and her young daughter. The daughter was dressed in a catholic school girl uniform and the mother was dressed in modest clothes. I pride myself on leaping to conclusions, so unsurprisingly I jumped out on a limb and guessed that this is a woman who has decided to give her daughter every possible advantage even though she has modest means. This was a woman to be admired!

As we got closer to the pair we began to politely (and admittedly somewhat breathlessly) say, “excuse us”. “Excuse us, ma’am! Excuse, us please.” Did this woman who I had just been admiring gesture her daughter to the side so that we could pass? On the contrary she stopped moving and shot me a dirty look. We actually made eye contact and she refused to move. We had to squeeze by them, nearly touching them. For people who don’t know me personally, I am a pudgy 6’2” 260 lbs fellow. If I hadn’t made those evasive maneuvers, if I hadn’t been nice enough to slow down to a near standing stop, either of the two could have been hurt. But there they stood.

I loudly stated to the Sarah and the world, “I wonder why people raise their children to have no manners?” I usually try to avoid confrontation, especially over small incidents of inconsiderate behavior, but this really annoyed me. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

As we continued to run, my mind wandered. I started to imagine a future where this little girl was now an all-knowing teenager continuing to do inconsiderate things. I pictured her doing something inconsiderate and possibly future destroying like dating a meth dealing biker. I could almost hear her mother giving the generic mother “I didn’t raise you to behave like that”. Then, “shazam!”, I would pop up out of nowhere and say, “you didn’t?”

It’s all well and good to pay to have your child attend a great school, to expose them to your faith and the positive effects you believe it has. To feed them the best food you can afford. To dote on them and to provide them with the tools and the self belief that can allow them to have a successful life. But, what’s the point if you don’t treat them to have a little common courtesy for their fellow man?

Now, I’m not a parent, but I am a know-it-all. I can’t imagine that teaching your kids to not care about other people, to not be willing to even step an inch to the side to let them pass as they politely excuse themselves, is a good thing. In fact, I think it’s something that this mother should be ashamed of.

So there, my contribution to more shame in the world!


p.s. Congratulations to Lisa and Pete on their wedding. I had a great time!