Whenever I am met with racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, transphobic and any type of speech or behavior that ranks or questions the worthiness of people (and all living things really), my blood boils, my body tightens up, my jaw clenches. These acts of shaming—of judging beings’ worthiness—bring up hurt, pain that can ultimately challenge my values, intentions, and commitment to conscious evolution.
Last year I came across an Instagram post where a celebrated blogger featured a clip of Ben Carson discussing why he thought Harriet Tubman shouldn’t be on the $20 bill. My immediate reaction was to shame him with friends, banter about his “self-hatred” and “out of touch-ness.”
But the Ben Carson clip wasn’t what triggered me the most.
There was one commenter on the Instagram post that really pushed the shaming button for me. She initially asked why Harriet Tubman was on the bill before Martin Luther King, Jr. And then proceeded to explain her position that as a Christian she was taught and believes men are heads of the households and should always lead before women.
My immediate reaction was anger. It’s upsetting when anyone puts peoples’ worth on a hierarchy, humanity on a supremacy scale, or limits a particular group to a certain set of roles, but when the person doing so is actually part of the group she’s marginalizing, and on top of that, uses “God’s will” to justify these beliefs, it’s disturbing.
Based on the way she was expressing her position, you could tell she was educated, which was even more unsettling. Why are you, an educated person who should know better, upholding these outdated, narrow-minded, nonsensical beliefs? Why would you continue to champion beliefs that say you are inferior and/or need to stay in your lane because you are a woman?
My blood boiled, my jaw clenched. I started having a hypothetical conversation out loud as if she was in the same room, and I went on my shaming tirade for a moment there.
Awareness leads to understanding, which leads to conscious evolution.
But then something happened as I kept reading the comments. The blogger, a Black-American feminist, didn’t go ballistic on the commenter or even try to “put her in her place.” Instead, she asked her to explain her position, what it was based on, why she supported it, and other questions to further understand where she was coming from, with all sincerity and respect. The blogger also explained her point of view and why she disagreed with the commenter.
The blogger and commenter made room for meaningful exchange. By the end of it, the commenter expressed her love and respect for her church as well as seeing some of the what she thought were limits to her held beliefs, while the blogger, commenter and those witnessing the exchange practiced making room for meaningful connection with people that have wildly different points of view.
Seeing this exchange struck a chord for a couple of reasons. I became aware of having a default reaction to shame the shamer or person with hierarchist/supremacist beliefs. Whenever someone is actively trying to denigrate people or espouses thinking that ranks them in a hierarchical order of humanity, I want to check them, expose them, make them feel stupid and, in fact, inferior for thinking or acting that way.
And while doing this feels somewhat like a release, somewhat empowering, it’s also very temporary, fleeting and in the long run, not very satisfying.
Even if I believe my point of view is more in line with the evolution of a more conscious, expansive, harmonious and just world, the act of shaming someone for having an uncompassionate, judgmental and/or hierarchist worldview is rooted in the egoic stance of being “right.” It’s not rooted in love and conscious evolution; it’s rooted in “winning,” judgment, a lack of or selective compassion, and perpetuates the very mindset and behavior that’s incongruent to my beliefs, intentions and commitment to conscious evolution.
It’s important to note that I’m not talking about getting upset. Feeling anger, grief and/or fear is neither right or wrong, especially when contending with offensive expression, oppression or a questioning of our humanity. I’m also not talking about going out of our way to make meaningful connection or change minds and hearts, especially when shame is being thrown our way. I’m talking about getting so upset that we get derailed and react in a way that we’re offended and oppressed by in the first place.
There is just no way to realize conscious evolution if we meet shame with shame.
If we are committed to the evolution of a more conscious, expansive, harmonious and just world, we have to make choices other than shaming. If we truly believe in compassion, that beliefs matter, and that hurt people hurt people, then we know people who shame or uphold a hierarchical order of humanity are derailed from the truth of who we are—we are one—and are struggling with shame of themselves, conditional “love” of themselves, unworthiness, powerlessness and personal captivity.
Let’s also not forget familial and cultural beliefs that embolden shame and judge worthiness are also at play here. For this commenter, her commitment to the church and its allegiance to patriarchy obviously impacted her worldview and sense of self. Remembering this opens up a portal of compassion and understanding, and thus, opens up room for meaningful connection. That’s where we need to act from if we are to actualize world transformation.
We too have to be aware of how much we need to undo the hold shame and unworthiness has on ourselves. The fact that certain types of thinking would trigger us so much to the point that we would want to shame for a sense of “power” reveals a certain part of ourselves that still believes in a hierarchical order of humanity, and unworthiness. When we do this type of u-turn, we act more in alignment with our values and strengthen our commitment to conscious evolution.
Had the blogger shamed the commenter for her beliefs, I’m certain meaningful connection wouldn’t have taken place. Respect wouldn’t have been honored and enlightenment wouldn’t have been gained by the blogger, commenter and all those experiencing the exchange, including myself.