Lately, I’ve noticed that there’s a whole lot of public shaming going on. It doesn’t even need to be for a egregious sin.
For instance, I was reading a Facebook post where someone bragged that they hung all their laundry on a clothesline, and couldn’t understand why any sane person would use a clothes dryer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hanging your clothes out to dry. But it was the attitude, one of “do what I do or you are a terrible person” that bothered me. The implication was that she was superior to us lesser mortals who use clothes dryers, and we should change to imitate her.
As you might expect, there were a lot of comments. One person pointed out that her HOA didn’t allow outside clotheslines, and she had no extra space inside where she could hang wet clothes. Another young woman explained that she had six children, did multiple loads of wash every day, and didn’t have the time or energy to hang all that laundry. She was thankful for her dryer!
What really caught my attention was the original poster’s response to these comments. She condemned and shamed them, calling them lazy and irresponsible, insisting that they were dooming us all by their wasteful ways.
Yup, death of the planet by clothes dryer.
Another area where people are frequently shamed is regarding their food choices. If you eat [insert favorite dietary restriction] you are making yourself sick, harming others, and are being incredibly gullible, or just plain stupid. And don’t get me started about sweeteners, artificial or otherwise.
There’s an elitism here. I enjoy new recipes and often hunt them online. However, many of the recipes I now read specify ingredients that are unavailable to the masses—either you can only buy them from specialty markets that are found in big cities, or they cost much more than the alternatives. Do we really need kosher or pink sea salt? What if I can’t afford all organic vegetables, or grass-fed beef?
The editor of a popular cooking magazine summed it up when describing how essential it is to know not only how the pig you are eating was raised, but also what it breed it is. (Apparently, only some swine breeds are worthy of her palate.) Then she went on to recommend Thanksgiving turkeys that cost well upwards of fifty dollars each. At that rate, I’d expect the turkey to cook dinner for me!
I understand that wealthy people have larger food budgets than I do. Fine. They are allowed to spend an exorbitant price for some roast pork or a turkey drumstick. What bothers me is the condemnation applied to the rest of us are if we don’t do as they do.
Then there’s body shaming, cyber-shaming (aka online shaming[i]), mom shaming[ii], slut shaming[iii], and so on.
Nowhere is this shaming trend more apparent than in politics. The heated exchanges remind me of elementary school name calling—believing that our opinion is so obviously the only reasonable one, that anyone who doesn’t share it must be bigoted, racist, willfully ignorant, inhumane, intolerant, uncaring, and the list goes on and on. What is the point of all this finger-pointing? Do people think that insulting someone will cause them to change their views? How about granting that most people truly want what they believe to be the best for our country, and that we just have differing assumptions on how that best can be achieved?
According to shame researcher Melissa Kirk,
almost everyone will respond to shaming in some way, although it will almost never be in way that nourishes the relationship between the shamer and the shamee. Shame makes us feel terrible, like we’re horrible people, broken, worthless, and disgusting. And when someone shames us, we lose respect for that person.
Is that really what we want?
The opposite of shaming is kindness. Choose words that encourage someone. Place yourself in their shoes, and try to understand why they hold that point of view. Think, and pray, before posting—or reposting—an angry response, one that is designed to hurt or belittle others.
“… But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment
for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.”
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.