Looking for some inspiration about overcoming shame.
August 30, 2008 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Looking for some inspiration about overcoming shame.

Anybody have any suggestions for an inspiring book or movie about someone overcoming immense feelings of shame for who they are and then living a fulfilling life? Preferably from a straight 40ish masculine perspective. Thanks.
posted by MiggySawdust to Human Relations (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Lummox: The Evolution of a Man

Not really a lot of "shame" in the book, but there is that sort of male-centered hindsight that says, "Wow, I sure was stupid..." You should be able to find a used copy super cheap.
posted by wfrgms at 3:05 PM on August 30, 2008

Good Will Hunting.
posted by Fairchild at 3:05 PM on August 30, 2008

Gilles Deleuze "To Have Done With Judgement"
Erving Goffman "Stigma"
posted by rhizome at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2008

There's actually an excellent movie called 'Smart People' where a 50ish widower/single father/professor who thinks he rules the world learns a lesson in humility/shame. Whether or not it helps, it's a great movie.
posted by docmccoy at 4:53 PM on August 30, 2008

Seconding Smart People, I just saw it last night actually and was about to recommend it. Fits your bill.
posted by hiptobesquare at 5:14 PM on August 30, 2008

The Elephant Man.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:23 PM on August 30, 2008

Public Sex has a lot of essays about this. One's even called "Antidote to Shame." It's not geared towards hetero older males per se, but a lot of things some straight men grapple with--porn, dominance fantasies, other kink etc.--she's explicitly talking about, because her perspective at the time (80s) was as a lesbian feminist who had seemingly straightforward un-p.c. sexual desires that other lesbian feminists didn't like. and she's very eloquent and precise about why shame over these things can be overcome with logical reasoning (which she provides a ton of) and the right attitude. Most important, she repeatedly maps out why it is important, nay, essential to get over institutionalized shame about sex in order to live a full life. She is very candid about how denying her own sexuality and fantasies fucked her life up, and how angry she is over how this sort of thing continues to keep most of society unfulfilled and confused.
posted by ifjuly at 12:31 PM on August 31, 2008

Thirding 'Smart People', it's cracking. The 'you've been talking for an hour straight' scene in the restuarant is a classic, and Dennis Quaid's character is a pitch-perfect study in alienation, self-loathing, narcissism and insecurity in one uptight, WASPy package. Good stuff. Ellen Page is remarkable in it too.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:54 AM on September 1, 2008

I've read that Conrad's Lord Jim is mostly about his response to a morally shameful incident. Without giving away the plot, it might help you to realise that maybe you shouldn't be so hard on yourself, because the way we act is often dictated by the circumstances rather than our character.
posted by leibniz at 2:06 AM on September 3, 2008

Best answer: Here's a story I heard when I was a kid:

There is an old story about two brothers. They were likable young men but they had a little bit of a wild streak. It got so wild that they began earning their money by stealing sheep from the local farmers. As happens to all thieves, one day they were caught.

Rather than kill them, the villagers decided to brand the two brothers on the forehead with the letters S. T. for “Sheep Thief.” The action so embarrassed the one young man that he ran off, never to be heard from again. The other brother was so filled with remorse and repentance that he chose to stay and try to reconcile himself to the villagers whom he had wronged.

At first the villagers were skeptical. Most of them wouldn't have anything to do with him. But he was determined to make reparation for his offenses. Whenever there was sickness, the sheep thief was there to help care for the sick person. Whenever there was work that needed to be done, the sheep thief showed up to help. It made no difference whether the person was rich or poor, the sheep thief was there to lend a helping hand. Soon he was an integral part of the community, never accepting pay for anything he did. His life was totally lived for others. As a consequence, he was a friend of all and became very well respected.

Many years passed and a traveler came through the town. As he sat at the sidewalk café eating his lunch, he noticed the well respected old man with the strange brand on his forehead, sitting at a table nearby. It seemed that everybody in town stopped to pay their respects or share a kind word. Even the children stopped to play or give and receive an affectionate hug. The stranger's curiosity was peaked and he asked the café owner about the old man. “What does the strange brand on his forehead stand for?”

The café owner, a contemporary of the old man, thought for a moment then said, “It happened so long ago that I don't rightly remember. But I think it stands for “Saint.”


I can't find the original source of this story. I seem to recall that the one asked at the end was a little girl. Anyway, If you google "sheep thief" and "saint", you'll come up with several different versions, but this one seemed fine.

By the way, one of the most ancient metaphors regarding shame is that it is a protection mechanism. That is, the feeling of shame stops you from doing something. or continuing to do something that will harm your self-esteem or your personal values.
posted by leibniz at 2:30 AM on September 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

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