Living in an honour/shame culture
"Shame is a reaction to other people's criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one." - Paul Hiebert
Here, we live in a Central Asian honour-shame culture. We have seen people shamed when they do something in public that goes against what is expected of them. There is a gesture that goes along with the word for shame here that everybody knows and seems to use often.
For example, when a young man doesn’t give up his seat for an old woman on the bus or when a daughter-in-law doesn’t perform all her household duties in her mother-in-law's home correctly, an onlooker will do the sign and say the word “shame” at that moment, or they will speak of the “shame” to another person later.
In our home (more Western) culture, we’re known as a guilt culture. It’s the expectation of punishment now or in the life to come which governs the way we act.
But could there be aspects of the shame culture in our culture, too? We all want people to think well of us, to like us. Maybe we just call it a different name. “Approval suck or people pleaser”? We all want to do things that will get us noticed, and we know that we can get away with things if no one finds out about them.
As my family tries to live surrounded by this honour-shame culture, and as we try and teach our children how to live, there is a chance that we will fall into one of the two cultures – either wanting to do what’s expected of us or burdened by guilt by the things we do wrong.
As Christ followers living in any culture, are we trying to (and teaching our children to) live, love and honour our neighbors in a way that glorifies God first?
Do our lives reflect our thankfulness for God’s love and all that He has done for us?
Are we living for “the audience of One” as Naomi Reed writes in her book My Seventh Monsoon?
It’s a constant struggle! To use Reed’s example, even as I sit down to write our newsletter home, am I just putting in the juiciest stories that make us look good or that justify the money people are giving us to be here? Or am I being true to the One who has us here and writing to give Him glory?
The challenge in this is to, no matter what kind of culture we are from or find ourselves living in, live each day before God and for His glory.