Shame as a Threshold

Recently, Christoph Sailer, who runs resource management for water and soil in Aachen, told me that when he was a child, he was allowed to bring friends home anytime. The extended family was used to providing for many, and having two or three more mouths at the lunch table did not matter. His mother always commented on such requests from her children with the sentence: «If everyone is ashamed, it’s enough for everyone.»

What a beautiful turn from shame to something meaningful! There is wisdom in this sentence, not just ‹pedagogy›. Imagine if we applied this to our north-south divide. What should we be ashamed of? Of the fact that we want to stuff ourselves and not share? Because friends are not just welcome for lunch today, and their hunger is none of our business? Yes, but if we are all a little ashamed, it is enough for Africa, South America, or India.

Shame leads back into myself, through my relationship with others. Shame softens again when I supposedly defend myself and treat others abusively. If I am really ashamed and allow this unpleasant feeling, i.e., go over the threshold, I myself regain human space under my feet. I feel myself in authenticity and real-time, not in my dreaming, greedy, bored, or frightened ideas of coming up short or needing more and more. From there, I can decide if someone is welcome and willing to share.

Warm greetings and thanks to Christoph’s mother.

Cover Image The western region of Australia’s Great Sandy Desert is an area where there is almost no sand but is characterized by a complex geology. Photo: USGS (United States Geological Survey) satellite image. – Translation: Monika Werner

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