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June 14, 2023

Why do we need to question the “should” of shame?

Most of us have been on the receiving end of this judgmental statement, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

How do we take that?

Do we agree?

Get angry?

Get defiant?

Become emotionally paralyzed?

Shame. It’s a doozy of a concept, isn’t it? It’s often weaponized.

And this well-worn phrase that most of us have heard at some point in our lives just brings it home.


A point of blame. “it’s not me, it’s YOU.”

It’s hard not to feel the disempowering sense of being wrong, unseen, unheard, dismissed, and usually, in some way, dirty.

Shame often is an external decree, made by someone else. For whatever reason or agenda.

And a large part of that decree focuses on you and I being the thing that’s wrong, nothing and no one else included. Black and white thinking. A villain must be named, and, what a surprise, it’s “us,” not “them.”

It can be a familial relationship; it can be a romantic or a friendship kind of relationship. It can also be any kind of larger system: a school, a business, a religious affiliation, just to name a few structures.

A common theme, existing within any relationship or system, however, is the emphasis these individuals and systems place on absolving themselves, while heaping the judgments of “evil,” “sin,” “wrong,” “bad,” “crazy,” or any other derogatory, dismissive, and invaliding assertion upon us.

A large reason for doing this?

If “we” are the focus of all that is wrong, “they” don’t need to be accountable for reprehensible, abusive, and illegal behavior. It’s manipulation.

Crafting and accentuating a certain image or narrative can allow bad behavior to continue. It can reward the sadistic entertainment of schadenfreude.

Should be.

It’s a “my way or the highway” kind of thinking here.

“Someone else” often first plants the seed. Things need to be a certain way; that “need” often requires we absorb full blame for another’s actions and behaviors.

Why “should” we be made to feel this way, through the toxic party’s perspective?

Some reasons?

Believing we “should” make things easier for others.

Believing we “should” make things more profitable for others.

Believing we “should” make things more fun and enjoyable for others.

Believing we “should” make things go away.

Whatever the case may be, there still exists a pressure placed on us, for someone else, and then, sometimes, internalized by ourselves.

We take the blame and believe we “should” do exactly that, without question or critical thought.


Shame is often the excellent weapon of choice, adding more heft to the faulty and harmful “should” application we embrace.

Concepts like “should” and “shame” have less to do with taking accurate personal responsibility and the moral ethical choices of “doing what’s right,” and more to do with controlling us for an exploitive agenda.

Think about it. Where is the redemption when it comes to “should” and “shame?” Where is the opportunity for healthy growth? Usually, it’s nonexistent.

Instead, there is low self-esteem, toxic coping strategies and addictions, and an inaccurate and faulty core belief.

Shame has a way of doing that. There’s little breathing room; there’s little healing under that oppressive way of existing.


Again, in this tiny word, there is the emphasis on ownership. “Of” denotes that something belongs to someone or something.

House of Gucci.

The United States of America.

Power of love.

Power of attorney.

We get the picture.


The connecting word of ownership, of subscribing something that rightfully belongs to someone or something.

So, when we are on the receiving end of “You should be ashamed of yourself,” what do we own?

Do we believe we must own the shame?


And the ownership issue, yet again, brings us right back to us as the focus.


It’s a singling out maneuver to the “You should be ashamed of yourself” decree.

There is no sharing of blame, responsibility, or accountability. Ever notice that?


“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The fault lies with only one person.

That’s it.

No room for discussion. End of story.

But what if it wasn’t our fault?

I know. Shocking.

Aside from being aware of ulterior motives and toxic agendas, we need to recognize how other peoples’ actions can create problems. The world doesn’t hinge on us being the only ones who cause problems and issues.

Indeed, in a warped way, we can be targeted as being the one and only person who causes the downfall of humanity.

Oh, dear. That’s an awful lot of power for one person, now, isn’t it?

What Should We Be Then?

Well, for starts, how about this?

We should exercise critical thinking concerning any finger pointing and blame. Exactly who is driving this? Why are they driving this? How could the blame and shame game benefit them?

What is our imperfect human behavior?

And then, once those questions are at least asked, even if they aren’t answered with certainty, we should edge ever closer into complete acceptance that we have value and worth, imperfections and all.

We should be that.

And there is no shame there.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse

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