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Shame: A Painful Emotion
Shame is defined as a painful feeling caused by a sense of guilt, shortcoming, impropriety; dishonor or disgrace. This painful emotion can come from either external souces such as the people around us or from internal sources such as our conscience. In the story Shame, author Dick Gregory describes his experiences with both externally and internally motivated shame.

The shame Dick Gregory experiences as a young child was externally motivated shame. Before the incident at Gregory s school, he was innocent and unaware of social differences. He knew he was poor, but he was not really aware how different he was compared to his peers. I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that. His innocence was replaced by a sense of shame when his teacher humiliated him in front of his class and peers. She disgraced him by pointing out his poverty and his lack of a father, causing him to feel shame for the first time.

Gregory describes how shame is all around him, Now there was shame everywhere. There as shame in going to Worthy Boys Annual Christmas Dinner. . . There was shame in wearing the brown and orange and white plaid mackinaw the welfare gave to 3,000 boys. There was shame in asking for rotten peaches, in asking Mrs. Simmons for a spoonful of sugar, in running out to meet the relief truck. Gregory had never felt shame before this incident.

Once shame is placed on Gregory, his behavior changes. He is so humiliated he doesn t attend school. He takes the alleys to get home so he doesn t see anyone he knows. He also hides in his house when the relief truck comes down the street. This shame was externally motivated by his teacher and was humiliating to Gregory.

Later in the story, Gregory experiences shame due to his own conscience. Gregory experiences this when he eats in a restaurant next to a wino who has no money. Before Gregory offers to pay for the wino s meal, the owner of the restaurant beats the wino and makes him bleed for his own meal. Gregory realizes how humiliated the wino is and how this is similar to his situation in his school days when his teacher humiliates him. By the time that Gregory offers to pay for the wino s meal, it is too late and he feels internally motivated shame, shame from his own conscience and guilt.

Kids growing up today continue to experience shame placed on them by society. If a student with reading disabilities is called upon to read a story in front of the class, he is going to feel humiliation and embarrassment. In a gym class, kids who are not very coordinated in sports are often picked last for any sports teams, making them feel less than their peers. A student who has learning disabilities is often tracked into lower level classes and feels inferior to kids in higher education classes. Students of a minority race are often made to feel inferior and second class. Teens with physical deformities also feel shame because of the different way others look at them. Unfortunately, society continues to place shame upon people with differences.

Kids today also feel shame from within themselves, shame motivated by their own consciences. Teens often witness other students being picked on. When they ignore the situation and do not try to stop it, they are left with feelings of guilt. Everytime we see a homeless person begging for food, we feel shame for not helping. Kids today also feel shame and guilt when they make no attempt to include someone who is different, some who is left out.

Shame can be either destructive or constructive. External Shame placed on a person because they are different causes humiliation, defeat, and failure. However, internal shame, although uncomfortable at the time, promotes personal growth and self-awareness.
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Shame. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 11 Oct, 2010 from