I see the #metoo movement, at its core, as a call to talk about shame.
Take away, for the moment, the questioning about whether allegations are true, the grappling with cognitive dissonance when people we’ve imagined as exemplary are revealed to have behaved in harmful ways, and the gendered cultural tropes that get assigned to both accused and accusers.
Put that down, for now, and instead imagine that the people – women, men, transgender, queer, and non-binary – who decide to share their stories of being violated (at any place on the scale of trauma and abuse) are saying:
I will no longer carry the shame that belongs to another.
I will no longer carry this story alone.
I ask everyone in this story to acknowledge their responsibility and carry their own shame.
All the polarized arguing just serves to distract us from what we would most like to avoid admitting:
We have a hard time dealing with shame.
Can we simply start with accepting that truth without hiding from it?
We don’t have to go any farther than that for now. We don’t have to deal with the actual shame yet. The most powerful first step we can take is to start with acknowledging that we want to avoid shame.
In his Carnegie Medal acceptance speech for Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson points to the critical connection between shame and injustice:
“We need to change the narrative in this country about race, and poverty. We’re a country that has a difficult time dealing with our shame, our mistakes. We don’t do shame very well in America, and because of that we allow a lot of horrific things to go unaddressed.”
This is the truth: Nothing is stopping us from talking about shame.
The more we talk about shame, the less power it has and the more free we are to nurture a culture that not only delineates justice, but embodies it.
The violence and disconnection from one another that we are collectively enduring is worse than facing the shame we fear. If we do it together, facing the shame in our collective story will free us to create the healing in our systems that we long for.
Where do we start? With two things.
We each take our own piece of shame to face. And we each put down any shame that we have been carrying that belongs to someone else.
These are essential and unavoidable steps towards healing.
This labor is how we give birth to justice. And the miracle is, that each of us is free to take up this labor.
We can do this. And we must, if we want to see health, if we want to see an end to systemic racism and sexism, if we want to see an end to violence.