In order to practice awareness, empathy, and view others as “more the same than different,” one more thing has to happen. We need to accept the realities of ourselves first and foremost. A parent that accepts that she doesn’t have control, and that she is doing her imperfect best, would have no reactive urge to shame her son. A husband that sees himself as worthy and adequate, imperfections and all, would openly discuss his observation that his wife no longer initiates sex instead of diminishing her or harboring his own shame.
If we want to start making a change in our society of shame and separation, our conversations and behaviors need to be deliberate. Within our families and relationships and groups of friends, we need be aware, of even our negative feelings, and willing to heal any pain through connection instead of through separation, superiority, and anger.
And if we are raising the next generations to make the world a little better, our messages to our kids should be, “It is always understandable that you feel how you feel and okay to be who you are, even if I am going to do my job as a parent and make you do your chores and your homework and keep you safe and teach you manners.” Our conversations and actions should also relay that “It makes sense that others feel how they feel and be who they are; In fact, let’s dig deep and put ourselves in their shoes.” We need to teach our kids and the world that we are all more the same than different, yes, even when taking about the kid who doesn’t speak English, the kid in the wheelchair, and even the guy that stole the purse at the mall.
And we need to kick the shame-voice to the curb in exchange for this self-talk: "I make mistakes and am scared and hurting and imperfect and fallible, but I am worthy of holding my head up high. I accept myself. I’m sorry when I cause others pain, and simply try again for better. You’re okay. Me too."
These are the conversations, behaviors, and mindsets that threaten to stop shame in its tracks and start to spread culture where love, connection and acceptance triumphs over fear, separation, and superiority.