Bringing Shame

I have observed that the idea of “bringing shame to one’s family” is merely a tool for controlling individuals. Note that if I bring milk to my family, I am in possession of it, say in a gallon container. If I enter my parent’s house and say, “Here is some milk for you,” they can accept it or reject it–as in “No, we don’t want it.” Now, if I commit a theft and am caught by police, my parents might say, “You have brought shame upon the family.” But how? Yes, I have shamed myself, but I do not bring my shame in a bottle and place it in my parent’s living room. Shame, guilt, the bad feeling inside me is not physically or spiritually transferable. My parents might be angry at me and denounce me,but they themselves, having done nothing shameful, will not feel shame—unless they have the false idea in their heads that in such a situation they “must” feel shame. But in that case, the feeling will not be genuine.

So, in many cultures we hear ideas like, “If you marry outside the race, or if you marry someone who is poor, or who is an actor, or someone whom we disapprove of, you will bring shame upon the family.” All of this is merely an attempt to control the individual, to deny his individuality, his own choices, and his own attempt to achieve his own happiness.

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