The Conversation

Shame is the difference between charity and entitlement

In response to Whatever Happened To The Concept Of Shame? :

I've long been fascinated by the way our society has lost its appreciation for both humility and shame.  We don't even really understand the meaning of the terms any more.  Try asking a young person, particularly around high-school age, what they think either of those words mean.

Humility is a virtue, and shame is a vital force for cultivating that virtue.  Shame is a vital component of responsibility.  As in the case of "Cinderella Man," where Braddock felt shame because he couldn't attend to the vital responsibility of caring for his family.  The modern viewer wants to give the man a hug and tell him it's foolish to feel ashamed, because it's not his fault, and he's doing the best he can.  But so great was his sense of honor and responsibility that he still felt shame over his predicament... which he not only overcame, but gloriously triumphed over.  I wonder what the average modern welfare dependent thinks about the notion of repaying the people for their generosity, and not just by contenting themselves that later prosperity means they'll pay plenty in taxes.

Shame is the vital difference between charity and entitlement.  It's also the most powerful force for keeping dependency temporary.  The Left embarked on a century-long crusade to remove all sense of shame from government handouts, and spread those subsidies far into what used to be known as the "middle class."  It won't just be poor people receiving those ObamaCare subsidies, even after the Administration gets its act together and stops running the program on the honor system.

The result is permanent dependency, which the many of the recipients view as their personal property.  And we're not just talking about impoverished people who would have trouble feeding their kids without government assistance.   When the Makers have also become hooked on direct government subsidies, who are they to lecture the Takers about turning the social safety net into a hammock?  

In contrast, the sense of shame remains a healthy component of private charity, especially religious charities.  That doesn't mean the people providing the charity want the beneficiaries to feel bad about themselves - quite the contrary.  I've worked with such charities, and found nothing but love and respect for the people they were trying to help.  It means the beneficiaries are expected to take responsibility for themselves.  The charitable are not interested in subsidizing a lifetime of sloth or alcoholism.  Sometimes I contemplate the far greater efficiency and life-affirming results of the best private charities, and wonder if we should divert our public welfare money to them, instead of pouring it down the State-managed sinkholes of fraud and bureaucratic waste... but then I think about what happens to noble private endeavors when the government begins to subsidize them.

Shame is the gateway to honor.  The good people of a healthy society should be able to feel it on their own, without any hectoring scolds telling them to be ashamed of themselves.


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