Bring Back Shame


baby ruth

by Mary Hartley

I was five years old, old enough to know right from wrong, but I wanted that Baby Ruth candy bar and my mother wouldn’t buy it for me so I took it as we left the candy store. I started eating it within minutes of leaving the store because I didn’t expect my mother would notice. What can I say, I was five.

Mother brought me back into the store to return the candy bar, by now partially eaten. I had to give it to the owner of the store with an apology. I can’t forget how disappointed he looked.

The shame I felt stuck with me and I never stole again.

The same thing happened with my failed efforts at lying. Lying makes you untrustworthy and generally people know you’re lying. Even worse is shaded truth-telling used to manipulate and get one’s way.

Instead of making excuses for people or rationalizing while we send people to safe spaces so they can escape the reality of their weaknesses, it is so much better to confront those mistakes and try to do better.

Is it really best to win by tricking people?

Manipulation is the work of the devil, not a clever Saul Alinsky tactic.

At one early point in my career, as a woman in a man’s world, I found I could charm my way around the truth – a shading here, a shading there. One day, one subordinate said that she knew I didn’t really lie but I had a way of nicely not telling the exact truth.

I felt shame and I was grateful for it. I had become a sneak.

As a young child, it was the same shame I felt when the nuns – my mother was Catholic and my father Protestant – caught me or others being less than truthful. We valued truth then. It was critically important to be an honest person.

Since Saul Alinsky, values like that have gone by the wayside.

Teach your children to be ashamed and close up those safe spaces, hide the trophies they didn’t earn, stop telling them they are all that when they can actually be replaced tomorrow in any career they choose, teach them to be the best the can be.

This is from a former liar and thief who has learned the best lessons can come from shame.


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