Shame for the Unemployed Samurai is a purifying force. And yet shaming other people is repulsive to him. The point is: there is an enlightened form of shame and an ignorant one. It’s good to know the difference.
So why is the Unemployed Samurai ashamed? He is ashamed because he is not living up to his own high standards, and because he so often lets his personal demons get the better of him. When he ‘misses the mark’—which is original meaning of sin—he feels shame. And that shame, according to some archetypal stories, is not only natural, it is the beginning of wisdom.
We can’t have real self-esteem unless we are willing to feel shame. Unless we are willing to acknowledge our weaknesses and vile acts, we will continue to be tormented by a certain hysteria of avoidance. However, when our negative acts are acknowledged deeply, then we can act accordingly to redeem the the situation.
On the other hand, a higher principal might be: never shame your friends or your children or the people around you. They don’t need your harsh words, your character assassination, the Godly way you give people a piece of your mind. They have their own shame to work with already. If a person is weak then he will shame others with angry words. This might appear like strength and power, these displays of chauvinistic emotionality, but a kind of sneering malevolence and lack of self-esteem is at the root.
The better way to defeat your ‘enemy’ is to be a clear mirror. If you project dignity, your enemy will be ashamed before you, but they will want to aspire to your level of clarity and decency at the same time. They will want to be a real Samurai, instead of a malevolent smuck — they will fall down at your feet like a dog in the lap of his master. You win — not by violence, but remaining still in the fire of emotional turmoil. But one false move and you are toast.
Telling children that they are special all the time, even when they are being little monsters, deprives them of aspiration, and takes away their power to learn from their mistakes — it turns them into narcissists. But if they are left alone with their shame at times, which may be least violent form of punishment, they will naturally learn to develop the strength to go beyond it. But that is quite different than beating someone over the head or shaming them relentlessly, which one should never do. It’s a question of presence — of being present with shame, rather than trying to deny it or chasing it away.
We can learn from a certain amount of shame, without dwelling in it or letting it create emotional scars. Of course too much shame is just another subterfuge. The thing to do with shame is to feel it deeply and fully, to let the energetic form of the shame appear, and then to cut off its cause at the root, through appropriate action. And then move on.
The society without shame is a society of superficial monsters. Without shame we are deprived of ever knowing ourselves, of ever seeing our own shadow, which, can be alchemically transmuted into a positive kind of power through recognition. We remain shallow, without gravity, without humility, and without intrinsic strength—if we don’t confront our shame. We believe we are free to do anything we like but really we are only acting from impulsion and ego. For if we are real Samurai’s or knights we are always ready to enter the dark cave to meet the dragon of shame. There is a mountain of gold there and a virgin to be saved.