shame and guilt

I was thinking yesterday about the difference between shame and guilt: guilt, it seems, is where you have wronged someone. They feel you have behaved badly towards them and you agree. Restitution is possible, at least in theory. It can be discussed. You can _do_ things to diminish it, or you can come to an agreement that nothing more can be done.

Shame is a different thing, because it can’t be expiated. It is a failure to live up to your own idea of yourself; and if you canot modify the habits that fill you with shame, the only cure is self-knowledge. No wonder it’s such a powerful spur to self-improvement.

Of course,this definition cuts across normal usage. It entails, for example, that what we call “survivor guilt” is actually survivor shame. It’s pretty atheistic. After all, God might be harmed (were he not perfect) by behaviour that damages no one else. Perl makes the baby Jesus cry and all that. But it marks a distinction that’s important and sometimes useful.

Anyway, I posted some days ago a rather tasteless link, for which I feel slightly guilty to the Internet at large. “Here is a sort of expiation”:http://www.magnatune.com/artists/craig_westine — duelling harpsichords from a California winery, distributed freely. Something to make you feel proud of civilisation. Any moment now I’ll be so happy I’ll have to pay for it.

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1 Response to shame and guilt

  1. Rupert says:

    The harpsichordists (is that correct?) play prettily. It is uplifting and cleansing. But I ventured out into the rest of that website and got a slight case of aural caries. It’s all… nice.

    Stuff that is not nice but is much better for the lower gut and upper brain can be found on WFMU. I thought of you here especially, as Dawkins and Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist are hidden among so much raw acreage of free fine weirdness that no ten men can listen to it all. WFMU could be the best radio station on the planet, and it’s just started podcasting. Which will do until something better comes along.

    R

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