Tag Archives: Adam

Shame and Free Will

If my actions are motivated by shame then I am not exercising free will. I am acting out a prefabricated script that was passed down to be by those who imprinted their shame onto me. But it feels like I am using my own free will when I am acting motivated by shame. Or to put it a bit more accurately, it does not feel like I am acting out a script when my actions are motivated by shame.

Shame can be very subtle in this regard. Here are a few examples:

I am told to believe in the Bible because it is the word of God and was divinely inspired. How do I know this is true? I want to believe it but I really have no evidence to confirm it one way or the other. So I am left with a dilemma. Either I believe it on faith (because I have been told that is what good people do) or I remain skeptical. If I remain skeptical my shame will punish me for not having faith. But if I believe in the Bible my shame will also punish me for not being a modern, critical thinker.

I was brought up in a family that votes Democratic. There have been times over the years that I have flirted with conservative, Republican ideology. This was back before the invasion of Iraq. At the time my liberal, neo-hippie friends and my family tried to make me feel like a dumbass for siding with the conservatives. Very little of this was based on reasoned debate. It seemed to be all based on shame. Now I vote more along the Democrat lines but I still sometimes feel like I am made out to be a dumbass by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and the people in my life who espouse that philosophy. Again, their tactics are loosely garbed in reason but their main point of persuasion is shame. Nowhere in the mix is what is true and false and best for the country. It is really all about shaming the other side. But when I pick a side I feel justified in my own beliefs and justified in shaming the other side.

I often feel awkward in social situations. When I am invited to a party my first inkling is to come up with an excuse not to go. Usually what happens is that I feel I should be social as the correct course of action. I go to the party and have a reasonably good time after a few drinks. Later in the night I feel glad I went and silly that I felt like I should not go in the first place. All this is shame. I don’t want to go to the party because I feel I will be judged. After I loosen up and feel okay talking to people I judge my pre-party self for being antisocial.

Where in the mix is what I really want? Where is my free will in any of these situations?

Shame is passed on from generation to generation. To the extent I act out the script I do so because my parents acted out the script on me. Their parents acted it out on them and so on down the line to the point where Adam took that bite of the apple, his eyes were opened and he felt ashamed. (See Gen 2:25 – 3:8). Interestingly it was free will (or so the Bible tells me so) that got us into this mess in the first place. If Adam had not chosen to eat the apple of his own free will then he would not have created the feeling of shame and it would not have then been passed down to me to rob me of my free will.

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Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part I

When I read the first few chapters of Genesis dealing with the creation, I always think about consciousness. What is the difference between something with consciousness and something without it? “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3). This phrase (perhaps) describes the moment when consciousness is turned on. The moment prior there was a void. (Gen 1:2). The moment after there was something. This something was a blank slate, unexperienced and blameless and God existed along side it. Then God started making his creation more and more complicated, separating the light from the dark, the land from the water and then filling it with living things. This, in a sense describes the evolution of consciousness. It suddenly appears out of a void. It starts out pure awareness and gradually takes in information, becoming more and more complex.

Then God creates Adam and Eve (in the second creation story) and places them in an idyllic world called Eden. He tells them they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before they eat the fruit God tells them not to eat it because they would die. God later tells himself they cannot eat it because then they will become like him. Before they eat the fruit the text specifically says they were both “naked” and “without shame.” (Gen 2:25).

Once they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge their “eyes were opened,” (Gen 3:7) they became embarrassed (ashamed) and hid themselves from God. When one walks down the path of shame he actually hides himself from himself in that he subordinates his true desires to what he perceives are the desires of others. In the context of this story I see God as the true self that Adam and Eve are hiding themselves from. When God confronts them they attempt to avoid blame by blaming each other. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Serpent. This is all shame oriented behavior; feeling not good enough, feeling embarrassed about self-appearance, avoiding blame, blaming other people.

In my own experience shame is passed from one person to another. Parents humiliate their children then their children humiliate their peers and ultimately their own kids. This feeling of being humiliated brings forth all these other shame oriented feelings and the desire to make other people feel the same way. But it is always an endless chain. As such, children cannot blame their parents for acting out this cycle because they are just re-acting the cycle their parents modeled for them. What Genesis is doing is explaining the origin of this process.

It seems to me (reading this story through the lens of shame) that the book of Genesis is depicting the origin of this endless chain of shame. First of all, shame is a corruption from the original blank slate of consciousness. The idea that the self is bad and wrong entered consciousness as one of the many pieces of information it took in. When that happened it took over to the point where man was irrevocably altered and had to be removed from paradise. In a sense man removed himself from paradise by becoming ashamed. But also shame came from the Serpent who is perhaps shame incarnate.

 

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