Guilt and Shame Culture

Tuesday, August 08, 2017



I have been exposed recently to the concept of guilt and shame culture of societies and I found it both fascinating and disturbing. I am only beginning to grasp the concept and finding it quite a deep subject to consider. 

It all began when I encountered a person who is steep in the Chinese culture and I thought since I need to understand him better, I started reading a book on Confucianism (which I need to get back to as I only just read the first few pages!)

I also began reading Korean Mind: Understanding Contemporary Korean Culture by Boye Lafayette De Mente, and there is this brief section on the Shame Culture, where "The one transgression that Koreans cannot accept is being shamed."

I see that quite a lot in the few Korean dramas that I watched and being brought up in a Chinese family, I can see it prevalent in the Chinese culture as well. 

However, I am not a very Chinese person to begin with, if I can say it that way. I was not schooled or brought up strictly in the Chinese way of life. I take on a more westernized way of thinking as I exposed myself to their writings and thinking, albeit still from an Asian perspective. 

I am also brought up in a Christian family and from a very young age, I am more exposed to the concept of guilt rather than shame. 

So when I am now reading and thinking about the shame concept, I am a bit disturbed about this way of life. 

I found this an interesting article, Guilt and Shame in Chinese Culture: A Cross- Cultural Framework from the Perspective of Morality and Identity by Olwen Bedford and Hwang Kwang Kuo, National Taiwan University. 

It is a long and technical paper and it is not an easy read. But it made me realize that I am probably a hybrid of having both guilt and shame culture. 

There are many questions swimming in my head right now that I am not even able to articulate. I need more time to think this through and a lot more reading to do. 

But more importantly, does the Gospel sound different to each of these cultures, guilt and shame? 

pearlie

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