Honor and Shame

First off, I’d like to apologize for not posting the past two Wistful Wednesdays. I was going through a bout of depressive tenancies and was just able to get out of it. I’m fine now, so I’ll leave it at that.

I came upon an interesting concept recently. A consent that seems really obvious when you really think about it; different cultures have different worldviews. Duh, right? But it recently came to my attention that many of these cultures can be sorted into three different categories.  There’s the Guilt and Innocence worldview typically associated with Western cultures. There’s the Honor and Shame worldview typically associated with Eastern cultures. Then there’s the the Fear and Power worldview often associated with tribal cultures.

It made me start to think about where I fit in in the whole mess. Being a third culture kid I could technically fit into all three worldviews. In truth I’ve probably got some kind of mixed up cocktail of all three swimming inside my head.

Prominently, I would say that the one forefront in my mind would be Honor and Shame.

I would say that shame has a big part in my life and had greatly impacted my view of the world. Growing up in an Asian household might have had a huge impact in why I think this way. There are these deeply held beliefs that are so ingrained that it is impossible to pinpoint when I accepted them as truth.

It wasn’t like my mother drilled them into my head, it was cultural. The unspoken rules of society and the household that no one spoke about but everyone knew. As long as I can remember, I’ve had this drive to not bring shame for our family. I kept my grades up, I did what I was told, and if there were troubles in the home, no one spoke about it.

For years, I kept any problems I had to myself because I was I was worried about how that would look like to people outside the family, and even to those inside the family. I still struggle with shame with what is now going on with my brother and how it makes the family look. I mean…it was even in the news. All our neighbors know.

I’ve been trying to name why I feel the way I feel. For a long time I thought it was fear but it really doesn’t fit. I don’t feel like I need power to feel better. The fear I feel is more associated with shame; shaming myself and my family to other people. I’m constantly worried about what people think of me, whether or not I’ve made a fool of my self or now, or whether or not people can see through my fake smiles and see my depression.

The last time I’ve been able to just be myself and not worry about shame and what people think was when I was just a child. The freedom to be whatever I wanted to be. But now, being a complicated and confusing mess of cultures I feel like I’m constantly putting on an act of who I think people expect me to be. With the added shame of myself and my family on my shoulders I also have to act like everything is alright all the time. Then there’s the depression that I try and hide because people seem to run away before you can say ‘mental’ in ‘I’ve got a mental illness’.

I worry that I wont ever be able to just to be myself.

What about you? What cultural category do you fit under and why? Or do you fit under a few of them? I’d love to know if I’m the only one.


A Shameful Writer

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3 Responses to Honor and Shame

  1. Carleen Pedersen says:

    Very interesting piece! Thank you for your insights. I have heard of many people struggling with this kind multiculturalism in their upbringings. You are definitely not alone. Hope you find others who can identify with your struggles.

    I appreciate your honesty. And I’m sorry you’re struggling. I’m praying for you & your family.


  2. Sarah says:

    Those cultural paradigms are fascinating, thanks for sharing. I’ve heard it noted that in the Bible, the gospel is expressed in various places in all these paradigms to communicate to all people — we are legally justified, our shame was borne by Jesus and we are brought back into relationship with our heavenly Father, we are freed from fear of death. So whatever paradigm you settle on, you are victorious in Jesus!

    Is someone whispering lies over you? Are you repeating lies over yourself? Don’t be deceived — Satan is the accuser, a liar and a murderer. But in Jesus, you have the authority to reject the lies and listen to them no longer. Jesus is pleading in your favor. He broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with head held high. You are secure. You are loved. Will you listen to the truth and let Jesus define your identity? You are precious in his eyes.


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