Shame is a strong feeling, but is also to do with our moral beliefs. We feel ashamed because what we did was wrong. But shame is also to do with pride. It’s the opposite of feeling proud of ourselves. If we are ashamed we usually don’t want people to know about it. So it’s often private, intimate, told only to someone trusted in a special way.
Although it’s not all that simple. Imagine a man or woman with a double life. Someone loses their job, and in desperation to feed their family accepts a new job doing something illegal or immoral or both. The family at home don’t know anything about it. He or she would be ashamed to tell them what they’re doing. But while they’re doing it it becomes interesting. You can imagine a similar scenario when someone has a long term love-affair which has no obvious effect on their marriage, may even be lucrative, the mysterious additions to the family bank account being passed off as interest on ‘investments’ .
Or there’s the situation where one partner sleeps with the chair of the interviewing committee to make sure the other gets the job. Everything is fine until the deed is uncovered and/or confessed. Things go fine so long as the shame is not fully faced up to, or deeds seen as shameful. Imagine a story which is just a shocking death-bed confession.
Or shame may creep up on someone. A person who is high up in a tobacco company, or clothes company, or arms trading company, may suddenly come to see encouraging what they’re doing as wrong and their work as shameful. They may themselves be confronted by a close-up experience of what is usually at a distance - a person with lung cancer, a ‘slave labourer’ in the East. Or shame may not be recognized or accepted as such so that people may campaign to make you and your rulers recognize it. Or shame may be way back in the past and irredeemable, as in Nazi or sex crimes committed seventy years ago.
Shame, of course, in the form of humiliation, may lead to suicide, or running way and changing your identity.