Trent Gillis asked the question on Twitter, “When we lose our sense of shame and propriety, do we lose a sense of intimacy and depth?”
In general, I’ve come to think of shame in the sense of honor versus shame. Both are estimations of value by a community based on a shared sense of ethics. If a community (or a person) has the power to shame me based on some action I’ve done, they also have the power to restore me to honor. I’m not getting into whether shame is a positive experience or not, because Brene Brown has written several books that incorporate way more research and insight into that topic. My understanding is that shame is a feeling experienced from an outside source, whereas guilt is a feeling, very similar in nature to shame, but coming from within (side note: guilt as a feeling is destructive, though guilt as a state is simply a reality. Did I break that window? Yes. Then I am guilty of that, regardless of how I feel. Whereas I can feel guilty about not attending someone’s party, though I in fact did nothing wrong. I digress!)
Since I think shame is ascribed to me by someone other than me, if we lose our sense of shame, I take that to mean that we don’t care what people think of us. We dehumanize and make irrelevant anyone’s opinion but our own. In doing so, to answer Trent’s question, I believe we do lose a sense of intimacy and depth. By ignoring those around us and what they may think (whether shame or honor), we cut ourselves off from intimacy because intimacy requires two active parties being vulnerable with each other with who they are.
Intimacy seems to say, “Here I am, warts and all. Know me, understand me, accept me, love me, and I will seek to do the same with you.”
Having no shame says, “Here I am. I don’t care what you think. I do what I want.”
And outside of the messy world of “other people” where grace and understanding and forgiveness and patience are necessary in order to create intimacy, this lack of shame and propriety create islands of individuals who have disregarded anyone’s opinion of their actions but their own. And if we refuse to let people affect our lives—actions, thoughts, motivations, etc—we automatically privatize our true selves, leaving only the shallow stuff “out there” to talk about, whether celebrity news, sports, gossip, TV, etc.
Shame and propriety are in some way an acknowledgment that you (plural) matter to me. Losing that sensitivity removes the ability for us to connect on a deeper level.