Good Shame vs Bad Shame

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If you are a regular reader here, you may have read my post and giveaway for Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. This book is easily one of the most valuable items in my writer’s toolbox.

As a friend of mine so eloquently puts it, “Steven Pressfield is absolutely zero bullsh*t.” If you’re looking for someone to tell you that it’s okay to put off your writing until you get your life under control, or that it’s okay to put aside your passion because you’re tired or weary, don’t read his book or his blog. Give in to Resistance and allow it to bury you and your dreams. Just don’t blame anyone but yourself because you couldn’t or wouldn’t put in the work.

Talent is so abundant it’s almost cliche’. Talent will only take you so far. If you truly believe that you have been called to your particular creative endeavor–whether that be writing, painting, music, whatever–then what are you waiting for? If you’re waiting for conditions to be perfect before you begin in earnest, I’ve got news for you. They will never be perfect. Resistance will never allow that to happen.

I recently discovered Mr. Pressfield writes a weekly post entitled Writing Wednesdays. I was particularly impressed with one called The Uses of Shame. In part, he writes:

Shame is good. Shame is a tremendous weapon against Resistance. Along with habit, momentum, aspiration, anger, eros and joy, shame can be a mighty ally in the never-ending guerrilla campaign against self-sabotage.

What is shame? Shame is the emotion we feel when we are guilty of acts that are unworthy of us.

Resistance hates shame. Because Resistance knows that once we feel shame, we are likely (goaded by this extremely unpleasant sensation) to take action. We are likely to gird our loins, put some starch in our backbone, kick ourselves in the ass–and actually start doing our work.

In this context, I agree that shame is a powerful motivator. Of course, there is bad shame. Bad shame is based on fear. It keeps victims of sexual and domestic abuse from outing their attackers. Bad shame keeps people in relationships because of obligation rather than love, it empowers bullys to continue their intimidation tactics on others. But bad shame is almost always based on lies.

Good shame motivates us to put away our excuses and belly aching and helps us move closer from the person we are to the person we want to be.

And what a shame it would be for the rest of the world if we never got a glimpse of that person inside of you…

Sorry/you’re welcome.

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18 Responses to “Good Shame vs Bad Shame”

  1. Kathleen April 27, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    >Yes. Like a flower refusing to bloom, robbing everyone of its beauty and fragrance. Fine, provoking post. πŸ™‚

  2. Cassandra Frear April 27, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    >It's really hard to create anything in my situation. But I'm doing it. I'm amazed that it can even happen.

    But finally I realized that if I did not create this one thing, I would regret it on my deathbed. The other stuff I do, I wouldn't care too much about. But this one, it matters.

    I started writing that day.

  3. M.L. Gallagher April 27, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    >Powerful stuff ya' wrote there Ms Kat!

    For me, shame is always bad until I turn it into good. Shame keeps me stuck. Courage draws it out and transforms it into life lived fearlessly on the other side of my fear.

    Hugs — thank you for this today. It was exactly what I needed to read!


  4. ~*Michelle*~ April 27, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    >This was fantastic!

    I am thinking that a big dose of "good" shame is great for the soul. It can be the motivating factor to bring us to where God wants us to be.

  5. Maureen April 27, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    >Excellent post, Kathy.

    Thank you for the tip on Pressfield's blog. I'm going to add it to blog roll.

    (btw, Louise's column was inspired by yours today. She gave you a shout-out.)

  6. Jason April 27, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    >Interesting perspective. Good post.

  7. katdish April 27, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    >Ooo! Thanks, Maureen. Heading over there now.

  8. TraciB April 27, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    >Terrific post, Kathy! Whatever motivates us to get into gear, that's what we need to be who God is calling us to be.

    My pastor preached along similar lines Sunday, and it was the kick in the pants I needed to start querying agents. Thanks for confirming that I'm (finally!) heading in the right direction.

  9. Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    >We can have godly sorrow that produces repentance…is this what you mean by by 'good shame'? Guilt over sin?

    Shame is the first recorded emotion / reaction in the garden and what Jesus despised while taking up the cross.

  10. katdish April 27, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    >Anon –

    Yes. That's one definition, but not the only one.

    I also refer to shame as opposed to shamelessness. Good shame says "write a better story/research and check your sources because you're a writer". Shamelessness says "write a reality TV show to showcase how it's okay not to feel ashamed, because that's where the money is."

  11. Melissa_Rae April 27, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    >Your comment about the conditions never being right really resonated with me. I know people who are waiting to get married, start a family, get an education, change careers, step out in their talent, and more. I feel like if God's put it on your heart, step out, trust Him and move forward!

  12. β™₯ Kathy April 27, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    >I agree with everything you said

  13. jasonS April 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    >Good stuff- crack that whip, Kat. πŸ™‚

    In all seriousness, I know what you're saying and it drives me crazy because I fall prey to it and so do others. We have light, passion, and purpose inside us (because of God's design then restoration in Jesus)–to not use what He's given us is the definition of shameful…

  14. Billy Coffey April 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    >Shame has often been a powerful motivator to me, along with the other examples Pressfield gave. I agree with everything you've said here. And thanks for turning me on to his blog!

  15. L.T. Elliot April 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    >Definitely "you're welcome." Definitely.

  16. bman April 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    >Wow. That was convicting… I better get creating!

  17. Sandra Heska King April 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    >I like. Now going to check out his blog. Thanks!

  18. lainiegallagher April 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    >Oh. Wow. Way to punch me in the gut.

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